Charlotte Sommer Gretsch

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Charlotte Sommer Gretsch circa 1913

November 21 Charlotte’s parents, Theresa Leicht and William Sommer, were married at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 6th Ave & 15th Street, New York City.

When did Charlotte’s Catholicism start?
Most Sommer and the Leicht family members were buried in the Lutheran Cemetery.

October 7 Susan Regina Sommer was born. She was the first child born to Theresa and William. Her birth was carefully recorded inside the family’s brand new ” Pictorial Bible”. To see pictures of and learn more about this bible see “Library” on the home page of this website.

August 10 Susan Regina Sommer died. She was 10 months old.

December 21 Philip Sommer, the second child of Theresa and William was born.

August 18 A third child, baby girl Theresa was born to William and Theresa.

September 24 Just over one month old, baby Theresa died was buried on this date at the Lutheran Cemetery. She was the second infant daughter of Theresa and William to die in the early years of their marriage. The entry of her birth was the final entry in the family bible.

October 30 Anna Sommer, the youngest sister of William Sommer was married to Johann Michael Schmidt.
Anna was 26 years old and William was 31. He lived at the time of his marriage at 112 West 53rd Street. this was also the home of William and Theresa.
Anna is living with her mother at 242 West 33rd Street.

June 7 According to the 1880 census, taken on June 7, 1880, the Sommer family consisted of William age 33, working in a butcher Shop, Theresa, age 28, his wife, Philip age 5, William age 3 and Louis age 1,  and Margaret Ginety (sp?) age 25 a servant, from Ireland in their household. The address at this time was a single family dwelling.

Regina Schmidt born. Regina was the first cousin of Charlotte. The daughter of Anna Sommer Schmidt.
Charlotte’s mother Theresa was herself pregnant at the time with her 6th child. Imagine her thoughts at the birth of a new baby girl in the family.

December 16
Charlotte was the sixth child born in eight years to Theresa Leicht and William Sommer. Two older sisters, Susan the first child of the marriage and Theresa both died in infancy.   Charlotte’s older brothers Philip, William and Louis, were the only children in the family when Charlotte was born in 1880.

Perhaps, Charlotte was named after Charlotte Holzderber who had just recently married J. George Flammer. In 1880, the Sommer, Flammer and Holzderber families were all involved in the grocery and meat business. Louie Sommer, William’s brother had married Carrie Flammer circa 1874. The connections between the three families, Sommer, Flammer and Holzderber remained close through the years. For example, in 1914, Willaim Flammer the son of Charlotte Holzderber and J.George Flammer would be a witness to the marriage of Theresa and William’s son, Leo Sommer to Gertrude Rohe.

In the year that Charlotte Sommer was born, on June 4, Louis Sommer and his young family were living at the home of Louis’ wife family, the Flammers.  Also living at that address, 901 Eight Avenue, was George Flammer age 23, a lawyer, the brother of Carrie Sommer. He was soon to marry Charlotte Holzderber.

In that same summer, William and Theresa Sommer only lived about 13 block away. Theresa was pregnant with her sixth child when George Flammer married Charlotte Holzderber.  Perhaps, the young bride, Charlotte and Theresa became good friends. Or perhaps, Theresa just liked the name Charlotte. Theresa and William had already named their first daughter Susan Regina. Susan was the name of Theresa’s mother and Regina was the name of William’s mother. Another daughter Theresa was given her mother’s name. Each of these little girls had died in infancy. Perhaps, Theresa and William decided to name their new daughter after Charlotte who had just married into the family.

For years Charlotte Holzderber’s family, like the Flammer family and just recently Louis and William Sommer were all involved in the meat business in Manhattan.

At the time of her marriage in 1880, Charlotte Holzderber was living with her mother, Henrietta Holzderber a widow, her grandmother Barbara Becker and her three brothers John, Jacob and William Holzderber on West 28th Street in Manahattan. See photograph below in 1896 where several Holzerderbers are pictured. There is however, no picture of Charlotte Holzderber Flammer.

There was another little girl named Charlotte in the family circle. Charlotte Flammer born in 1877 was the daughter of Charles A. Flammer, the older brother of Carrie Flammer. Carrie was the sister in law of William and Theresa. William and Theresa would have know this little girl very well. The Sommer and Flammer families were often together.

At the time of Charlotte Sommer’s birth, her family lived at
112 West 53rd Street NYC. For more information about the
neighborhood, to see a picture of what the house might have
looked like, and to lean more about the Rockefeller family
who also recently moved into the neighborhood, click on the
above address.

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For more information about the various places where the Sommer
family lived in the 1800’s, go to the “Historical Addresses” site
on the home page.

December 20 On this date, just four days after the birth of new baby Charlotte,
a mile of Broadway not far from the Sommer home
was illuminated for the first time by Brush Arc Lamps.

Imagine the excitement which the novelty of such overwhelmingly
bright night light caused not only in Charlotte’s family but also in her
neighborhood and around the world.

I can imagine Charlotte’s three older brothers, Philip, William and
Louis being more interested in the outside light available now in the
winter darkness than in their new baby sister.

I can imagine, Theresa, Charlotte’s mother, up in the middle
of the night caring for her new daughter and basking in
the incredible magic of night light.

What they all must have imagined for the future!

The New York Times reported that the darkened streets
“flooded with daylight” as the experiments
for this new type of lighting were being conducted.

This picture of Brush Arc Lights on Broadway, provides a very clear glimpse into the world in which Charlotte was born.

The inventor of these lights, Charles Francis Brush had graduated
from the University of Michigan in 1869. Years later,
Charlotte’s youngest son, Richard would graduate from the
same university and also have an illustrious career
in engineering and lighting.

To read more about Charlotte’s son’s career in lighting during
the second part of the 20th century scroll down to “a period of complex growth” and look for
the name Gretsch.

For more information on Charles Francis Brush and
the lighting which illuminated Charlotte’s babyhood
go to the website listed below:

In this year 1881, The Windermere, an apartment complex at West 57th and Ninth Ave. was built. “It is older but not as famous as the Chelsea Hotel on West 23rd St. (1883) or the Dakota  on West 72 St. (1884).” In its heyday in the late-19th-century the Windermere was famed for its “marble fireplaces, its uniformed “hall-boys” and the latest in technological wonders, the hydraulic elevator and the telephone.” “It originally had 39 large apartments, some with as many as six bedrooms.”(NYT, October 22, 2008)

This is the neighborhood Charlotte grew up in.

March 4 James Abram Garfield, Civil War hero, Ohio Republican and twentieth president of the United States was inaugurated in Washington, D.C. He succeeded Rutherford B. Hayes who served one term at the White House under the cloud of an election variously described as “disputed” and “stolen”. (Patricia O’Toole, The Five of Hearts)

July 2 President Garfield was shot in a Washington Railroad Station. Mortally wounded, Garfield lay in the White House for weeks. Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, tried unsuccessfully to find the bullet with an induction-balance electrical device which he had designed

July 24
Regina Schmidt , first cousin of Charlotte Sommer, died at 112 West 53rd St.  Note that Regina died at the same address where Charlotte was born just a few months earlier. Regina was the daughter of Anna Sommer Schmidt and Johann Schmidt. Anna was the youngest sister of Charlotte’s father, William.

Regina was named after her grandmother, Regina Winklein Sommer ( see photo below). Regina was just days short of her second birthday when she died.

On little Regina’s death certificate, 112 West 53rd Street is described as a multifamily dwelling, three families living there. Regina’s family lived on the second floor. Baby Regina was buried with Philip and Regina Sommer at the Lutheran Cemetery in Brooklyn.

This is the same Cemetery where the victims General Slocum disaster  would be buried in 1904. See 1904 on this timeline for more details.

To learn more about Charlotte Sommer Gretsch and the General Slocum disaster read ” Agility and Elegance” in the Essay section of this website.

September 19 President Garfield died.

June Charlotte’s cousin, Clara Schmidt was born. Clara was the second daughter of Anna Sommer and Johann Scnmidt . In 1904, Clara would be in Charlotte’s wedding.

March 27 Charles Sommer, Charlotte’s younger brother was born.

February 12 Alice Roosevelt, daughter of Theodore Roosevelt and Alice Lee was born at 6 West 57th Street just a few blocks north of where Charlotte and her family lived at West 53rd Street. In this house Theodore who was a New York State Assemblyman at the time lived with his wife and his widowed mother. Two days after Alice’s birth, her mother died of Bright’s disease and her grandmother, Martha Bullock Roosevelt died of typhoid fever. Teddy Roosevelt lost his wife and mother just a few blocks from where Charlotte was growing up.

Teddy Roosevelt went west after this tragedy and said that he would never be happy again.

Elliot Roosevelt, the brother of Theodore lived on West 55th Street, also in Charlotte’s neighborhood. Elliot Roosevelt was the future father of Eleanor Roosevelt.

December 13 Charlotte’s grandmother, Regina Winklein Sommer died at 1658 Lexington Avenue. She had been living with the family of her youngest daughter Anna Sommer Schmidt. Anna was pregnant at the time she was caring for her dying mother.

To see an enlargement of this picture and to learn more about Charlotte’s grandmother, Regina Winklein Sommer, click on this picture.

December 16 Charlotte’s fourth birthday. ” William Vanderbilt has sold …a plot on the north west side of 54th Street just east of 5th Ave. to William Rockefeller.” NYT.  Charlotte’s neighborhood as a child was certainly one surrounded by the very rich both the Rockefellers and the Roosevelt’s.

January 5 A cousin, Adele Schmidt, daughter of Anna Sommer and Johan Schmidt was born at 1658 Lexington Ave. Little Charlotte at age five has lost a grandmother and gained a new baby cousin in less than one month.

June William “Buffalo Bill”Cody (1846-1917) famous western scout and buffalo hunter brought his “Wild West Show” to an area of Mariners Harbor called Erastina (named for Staten Island promoter Erastus Wiman) for two seasons from June to October in 1886 and again in 1887. During the winter of 1886 the show moved indoors to Madison Square Garden. His show, featuring Native Americans, trick riders, “the smallest cowboy” and sharpshooters (including Annie Oakley) is said to have drawn millions of visitors to the island. His autobiography is called The Life and Adventures of Buffalo Bill (1st ed. 1879: later editions include information about the Staten Island shows).(

At that time Madison Square Gardens was located at 5th Ave and 23rd Street. Charlotte was almost six years old. Surely, her older brothers were very interested in this Wild West Show and undoubtedly Charlotte was too.

Did Charlotte go to the 17 mile opening day parade in June in New York City?

Annie Oakley was the most famous women in the whole country. Possibly, little Charlotte went to the show at Madison Square Garden. Surely, her older brothers, Philip and Louie were there. Anne Oakley and the Wild West Show was the talk of the town. Charlotte and her many cousins would have followed all the excitement.

winter John G. Flammer died. John was the father of Caroline Flammer who married Louis Sommer. John was very wealthy. He had worked for years in the meat business. He also was a founder and an officer of the West Side Savings Bank, and a founder of the Third Avenue Surface Railway. He however lost most of his wealth in the Panic of 1873. One year after his grandson Arthur Sommer was born, John G. Flammer fell on the ice and broke his leg. He died the next day.

His daughter Caroline and her family continued to live in the family house on Eight Ave. with Caroline’s mother and her younger brother Theodore.

April 5 Charlotte’s younger brother, Leopold Leicht Sommer is born.

December 17 Grandpa Leopold Leicht died at 404 West 40th Street, New York City.
Leopold owned several adjacent properties on Ninth Avenue, West 40th street and West 39th Street, in the 20th ward when he died. At his death, the properties went to his wife and children. Theresa, Charlotte’s mother came into some money at this time. These properties included the sites of the furniture business which Leopold operated with his sons, Leopold and Charles and the family’s home at 404 West 40th where Theresa lived at the time of her marriage.

Both William Sommer and his brother Louis Sommer married well. The father of William’s wife, Theresa owned lots of property in Manhattan. Louis’s wife Caroline was the daughter of a once very successful meat merchant.
Perhaps, the funds for what would be “The Sommer Brothers’ Market” came initially from their wives’ families.


November 25 Charlotte’s cousin Adele Schmidt died.

December 21 Charlotte’s younger brother, John Sommer born.

May 13 Construction began for Carnegie Hall on 7th Ave between  56th and 57th Street, just blocks from where Charlotte lives.

May 5 Carnegie Hall is inaugurated with a concert conducted by Peter Tchaikovsky (New York City Access Richard Saul Wurman, Access Press, 1991) Charlotte and her family must have paid close attention to the festivities.

December 30 First Children’s concert was held at Carnegie Hall.  Charlotte ( age 11) and her siblings just might possibly have attended.


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Arts Students League was built at 215 West 57th Street in Charlotte’s close neighborhood. This magnificent “French Renaissance Palace” designed building housed the Fine Arts Society, the Architectural League and the Art Students League.  It was the scene of nearly every important exhibition at the turn of the century.
January Augusta Sommer, daughter of Carrie Flammer and Louie Sommer born.
Augusta was one of Charlotte’s very few girl cousins.

In this year Charlotte Holzderber Flammer and her husband J. George moved to 124 West 87th Street. “From there, J. George would ride horseback with his friends in Central Park. They had a clock installed on the reservoir pump house in Central Park so that they could tell time without unbuttoning their heavy coats in wintertime. The clock is still there and running.” Thanks to Harry M. Anderson for this family story. Harry’s wife, Caddy Flammer, is the granddaughter of Charlotte Holzderber Flammer.

Charlotte Holzderber Flammer and her husband never had a daughter. Prehaps, they felt close to Charlotte Sommer who was part of the large family circle.

June Economic Panic
September 14 Grandma Susanna Leicht died at 404 West 40th Street.
Years later, Charlotte recorded this date in her diary. Charlotte’s middle mane Susan was perhaps taken from her grandmother’s name. Charlotte undoubtedly felt close to her grandmother.

December 16 Charlotte’s thirteenth birthday and Dvorak’s New World Symphony premiered at Carnegie Hall just around the corner from where Charlotte lived. Charlotte and her family must have been aware of this world famous event. That it would coincide with Charlotte’s birthday must have been spoken of in the family.

February 18 Charlotte’s first cousin George Moeller died (age 35), son of Eliza, William’s eldest sister.

May 15 Uncle Louie Sommer, brother of William Sommer, died. No death certificate for him could be found in New York.

Louis Sommer: “age 50 years 10 months 8 days, place of death 901 8th Avenue, NY, interred May 19, 1895, cause of death nephritis” thanks to Carlotta Shaw for this information.

This was Charlotte’s father’s only brother. It’s easy to imagine a close connection between the children of both these brothers. The picture below points to just such a closeness between the cousins.

November 21 William G. Rockefeller, son of William Rockefeller married in New York City. Charlotte, soon to be 16 years old, would have paid close attention to this big society wedding of her neighbors.

December 4  Charlotte Sommer’s father, William Sommer purchased family plot where Charlotte would be buried


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Click on this image to see an enlargement Theresa and William Sommer and their children around 1896.
Back row: Louis and Charlotte
Center row: Philip, Theresa, William
Bottom row: Charles, John and Leo

This picture is taken outside which is unusual for the time.

This virtual picture was given to Gretchen Elsner-Sommer in May of 2005 by Barbara Sommer Shea.
Gretchen is the granddaughter of Charlotte Sommer and Barbara is the daughter of John Sommer.

July 26

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Click on this image to see an enlargement. The Brooklyn Eagle reported on this Sunday, that the following guests (among others) were at the Fort Lowry Hotel and Cottages, a sea side resort at Bath Beach Long Island:
Mrs. C.W. Sommer, Louis Sommer, William Sommer, Arther Sommer, George and Charles Sommer, Mrs. J. Flammer, Mrs. Augusta Flammer, Miss Olive Flammer, Miss Alice Flammer, Theodore Flammer, Mr and Mrs. William Sommer.
Perhaps, it was the above occasion in which this picture was taken.

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The date on the picture reads “Bath Beach in 1895?”

Also pictured are members of the Flammer and Holzderber families.

Charlotte is the first girl in the second row on the left. Her Aunt Carrie Flammer Sommer stands behind her. Also included in the picture are Charlotte’s older brothers Phil and Louie (third and fourth from left on top row). Standing next to these boys is their mother Theresa Leicht Sommer. Charlotte’s younger brother Charlie is the fourth child from the left on the bottom row. Next to him is Charlotte’s youngest brother John. Another brother Leo is the boy on the end of this row. Sitting in the first row amongst their cousins are Louie and Carrie’s children, Arthur, Augusta, an unidentified boy behind, and George.  William Sommer, Charlotte’s father is on the far right on the top row.   Next to him is a Holzderber man. Also, the first man on the top row is a Holzderber. Perhaps, these are the brothers of Charlotte Flammer, John, Jacob or William Holzderber.

This picture was taken after the death of Louis Sommer. Louie’s widow Carrie Flammer Sommer and several of his children are in the picture. Members of Louie’s wife’s family, Flammer, are also in the picture. Carrie Flammer Sommer’s brother  J. George Flammer was married to Charlotte Holzderber. Sitting next to Charlotte Sommer are unidentified persons named Mrs. Cook, and her sister. Next is Mrs. Holzderber (The mother of Charlotte Flammer) Grandma and Grandma Flammer (Carrie Flammer Sommer’s mother). I am thankful to Carlotta Shaw whose husband Ransom Shaw is the grandson of Arthur Sommer. Carlotta pointed out for me the connection between the Holzderber family and the Flammer family.

The connection to The Fort Lowry Hotel was pointed out to me by Harry M. Anderson. Harry is married to Caddy Flammer, the granddaughter of Charlotte Holzderber Flammer.

The original identification at the bottom of the photo was done by John Sommer, the youngest brother of Charlotte. Later, his daughter Barbara Sommer Shea added more information.

February 15 On this day, the USS Maine,  pride of the American Fleet and an imposing warship, was destroyed by a explosion in Havana Harbor. Cuba’s war of independence from Spain attracted attention from around the world. The  Maine was equipped with some of the U.S. Navy’s most advanced technology and had been sent to Cuba ostentatiously on a mission of friendly courtesy.  In reality, she was also there to protect American lives and interests. “Yet the visit was neither spontaneous or altruistic; the United States had been eying Cuba for almost a century” (Remember the Maine, Smithsonian, Feb. 1998). Only 84 of the 350 crew and officers aboard survived the blast.

February 17 William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal headline read “THE WAR SHIP MAINE WAS SPLIT IN TWO BY AN ENEMY SECRET INFERNAL MACHINE”.

April 15 Congress declared war on Spain.

May 12 71st Regiment left New York to fight in the Spanish American War.
There were certainly a lot of Sommer young men who were old enough to fight in this war. Did they? Did Charlotte have any brothers, cousins or know any young men involved in this?
Perhaps, her older brothers had friends fighting.

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Charlotte Sommer in 1898. She is 18 years old. On the back of this picture is written ” With Compliments, from Lottie 1898″. Six years later Fred and Charlotte would marry. This picture was found at the Gretsch family home on Shorthill Road. Therefore, I think even though Fred’s name is not part of the inscription that it was given to Fred Gretsch in the years before their marriage. The photographer was Fernando Lessaurl at 423 Eighth Avenue, New York. This is the same photographer who took many of the pictures found in the Bible of Charlotte’s mother, Theresa Leicht. (For more information about Theresa’s Bible see “Library” in this website.) * Researching the photographer of this photo, discovered the photographers name is Fernando Cessaurl. His work can be seen in the John and Jane Photograph Collection housed at the University Special Collection of California.

September 30 This was the last day of a large 3-day celebration for Admiral George Dewey in New York City.
After his successes in Manila Bay, Dewey was considered chief among naval heroes of the world. His naval triumphs raised in a moment’s time the prestige of American arms throughout the world.  Charlotte, who was 18 years old at the time, was I’m sure there to watch the parade, perhaps, with her friend Clara Schutheis who would later marry her brother Louie. Louie and Clara would later have a daughter who they named Marrieta. This beautiful Spanish name was also the name of one of Admiral Dewey’s ships.

July 20
recorded in Charlotte’s Diary. Charlotte’s first niece, Charlotte Elizabeth Sommer was born in New York.  She was the first of two nieces who would be named after Charlotte. This little niece was the daughter of Charlotte’s brother Philip and Augusta Sommer.
(Died February 12, 1912).
I can find no listing for Philip Sommer and his family in the 1900 census.

June 4

The US Census records show that Charlotte Sommer ‘s household located at 243 West 54th Street was a crowed one.
In 1921, the house was described as a brick three story residence with a basement. It was 18.9 feet wide and 50 feet deep. This is possibly how it looks when Charlotte’s father purchased the lot in 1903. Theresa, Charlotte’s mother had purchased the adjoining lot in 1900.

Also, in the 1900 census, Charlotte is not given an occupation. Right, next door at 243 is another 19 year old girl Alice Brown. She also does not have an occupation. I wonder if she and Charlotte were friends.

William and Theresa lived at the above address with their children Louis, Charlotte, Charles, Leo and John. Also in the household was a 45 year old single white Male with the initials William Roberts. His occupation is a bookkeeper and he owns his own business. His is recorded as a lodger. What is strange is that his name appears right below Charlotte’s and above the names of her younger brothers who are listed on the next page. Usually, the children are all listed together.
There are also two women servants from Germany. Louisa Belzner age 22 and Sophie Hirner age 29.

In the 1905 New York Census, Charlotte and L.R are no longer living at this address and two other women have replaced the maids.

February 8 The New York Herald Tribune reported on the wedding of Queen Wilhelmina of Holland and Duke Henry. Included in the coverage of this royal wedding were many photos and a special article about the bride’s wedding dress.  No doubt young Charlotte’s attention was captured by this romantic event.

September 6 William Mc Kinley, 26th President of the United States, was shot by an anarchist while attending the Buffalo Pan-American Exposition. He died 8 days later.
Mc Kinley was the third of the last nine presidents to be assassinated while in office. This fact is reflective of the turbulence and violence of the times. The other recently assassinated Presidents were Abraham Lincoln and James Garfield. Theodore Roosevelt became President on McKinley’s death. Roosevelt would have been well known to Charlotte’s family. Roosevelt was from New York City. He had served earlier terms in the New York State Legislature and as the Governor of the state. Whether the Sommer family liked his politics or not, the story of this local boy turned president would have made the catastrophic events of his coming to office seem close to the family.

July 27 “Amelia’s birthday (Died November 10, 1919)”(This information is from Charlotte’s diary. The date of death is wrong. Emilie (her name must have been changed, died in 1915) Amelia was the younger sister of Charlotte Sommer, a niece of Charlotte Sommer Gretsch. (See above July 20, 1900.)

Charlotte witnesses Fred Gretsch’s passport application in June of 1924. She states there that she has known him for 22 years.

Accordingly, Charlotte and Fred first met in this year, 1902.

December 19 On this Saturday, just three days after Charlotte’s 23rd birthday, the Williamsburg Bridge was officially opened. There was a huge parade for the occasion and fourteen hundred policemen were on hand to keep order. William Cullen Bryant was the Parade’s Grand Marshall.

Charlotte was already dating Fred Gretsch who she would marry just one month later in Manhattan.
Fred lived in Brooklyn not far from the Brooklyn end of the Williamsburg Bridge.
Perhaps, they thought of the bridge as a symbol of their union, a connection between Brooklyn and Manhattan.

It was not the first bridge between the two counties. The first bridge was the Brooklyn Bridge which was officially opened in 1883.  The Williamsburg Bridge was however, the largest, the longest and the widest. In the years to come it would be a big part of the Gretsch business in Brooklyn.

At the time Charlotte had three younger brothers who must also have been very interested in this bridge and the parade scheduled for its inauguration.

Quite possibly, Charlotte went to the festivities with her younger brothers. Perhaps, she went with her fiancé, Fred Gretsch.

January 20 Charlotte and Fred Gretsch were married at her parents home 243 West 54th Street . This house was purchased by William Sommer in 1903. The house is no longer there (2004).
In 1921, the house was described as a brick three story residence with a basement. It was 18.9 feet wide and 50 feet deep. This is possibly how it looks when Charlotte’s father purchased the lot in 1903. Theresa, Charlotte’s mother had purchased the adjoining lot in 1900.
Charlotte and Fred were married by an Evangelical Lutheran Pastor, William Koepchen (residence 431 W.43rd Street). Fred’s siblings, Walter and Elsa Gretsch and Charlotte’s cousin, Clara Schmidt were witnesses. Obviously Fred and his brother Walter were quite close not only in business but also in their family lives.

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Wedding Document of Charlotte & Fred Gretsch.
Charlotte’s wedding was very different from her mother’s wedding which was also a New York City wedding. In 1872, Charlotte’s mother, Theresa Leicht had a large wedding with many attendants. Theresa was married in a Lutheran Church. Charlotte, on the other hand was married in her parents’ home with only three witnesses who were all close family members.

Charlotte’s first cousin Clara Schmidt was one of the witnesses. Clara was the daughter of William Sommer’s youngest sister Anna Sommer Schmidt. In 1872, Charlotte’s mother Theresa also had her first cousin Carrie Meyer as a witness in her wedding. So both brides, mother in 1872 and daughter in 1904, having no sisters, choose their first cousins as witnesses and maids of honor at their wedding.

According to “The Music Trades” a trade magazine, Fred traveled extensively throughout the United States in the early part of the 20th century. So, Charlotte was presumably often home alone after her marriage.

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This is the back of Charlotte and Fred’s Wedding Document. Note Charlotte’s intriguing signature.

It is quite possible that Charlotte accompanied Fred to Europe on a business trip as part of their honeymoon. According to Nathan Jonas’s autobiography (See Through The Years on the library page of this website) it was customary for a new bride to accompany her spouse on a wedding/business trip. Nathan Jonas was a mentor to the young Fred Gretsch and it is likely that like Jonas, Fred took his new bride on a business/wedding trip. Years later, Walter and Louis Gretsch both took their new brides to Europe for an extended stay after their marriages.

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This very small photo of a very young Charlotte Gretsch might have been the identification picture which she carried on her wedding trip. According to the National Archives passports were not necessary at this time for American citizens.

According to Fred’s passport application in 1921, he was not in Europe in this time frame. His earliest trip to Europe was 1911. However, I still have a hunch that he took his young bride to Europe on their wedding/business trip.

The large oval serving plate pictured below is Charlotte Sommer Gretsch’s china. It is part of a once much larger set. Plates of this set were very kindly distributed by Dick Gretsch (Charlotte’s youngest son) via his children to all of Charlotte’s grandchildren in the late 1990’s. The gold leaf initials are “CSG”.

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Most likely, this set was purchased in Dresden on one of the many business trips that Charlotte took with her husband in the early part of the 20th century. Note the “K.P. Dresden” marking on the back of the plate. This plate once belonged to Happy Gretsch Copley (Fred’s daughter) but is now in the home of Charlotte Gretsch Pretat (Bill’s daughter). Happy generously passed it on to her cousin Charlotte who was named after Charlotte Sommer Gretsch.

Click on each imagine to see an enlargement.

June 15 On this bright clear day, a small fire turned into a horrendous disaster aboard the “General Slocum” in New York harbor. This pleasure ship was carrying mostly German Lutherans to a church picnic outing on Long Island.

One thousand people mostly women and children were killed. This was the biggest tragedy to date in New York City. This calamity struck at the heart of the local German and Lutheran communities. Is this perhaps the event that caused Charlotte and her mother to change their religion? All the documents I have before this event cite Charlotte and her mother as Lutheran. All documents afterwards record their faith as Roman Catholic. For more information see “Agility and Excellence” in the essay section of this website.

October 27 After years of struggle and mountains of problems associated with its being built, the first passengers boarded the subway in New York City. The first line was opened by August Belmont’s Interborough Rapid Transit Co. (IRT) ran for 22 miles and immediately gained public support. It was soon carrying 600,000 passengers daily and making substantial profits. The IRT trains ran at 40 miles an hour and triggered rapid urbanization of the western part of the Bronx.( Historical Atlas of new York City)

March 10 Charlotte’s first child, Fred Gretsch Jr. was born at  178 Nostrand Avenue.

78 Nostrand Ave is only one and a half blocks from 20 Hart Street where the Gretsch family lived from the early 1890’s until 1903.
The location is also near the Gretsch factory on South 4th Street.

It is interesting that Fred and Charlotte lived so close to where the Gretsch family just recently lived.

The only copy available of young Fred’s birth certificate was one that was made on September 22, 1922 and sworn to by his father, Fred Gretsch.

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“Dear Fred, This is an old picture of you taken many years ago. Hope you like it. Sidney Newcorn, March 1, 1962”

Thank you, Sidney Newcorn for saving this priceless photograph and for sending it to Fred Jr. in 1962. The family ties in the music business go very far back.

In the early 1890’s John Henry Buckbee made a banjo for Harry Newcorn, the father of Sydney. Harry was a musical distributor at that time. Harry probably knew the young Frederick Gretsch well in the 1890’s. In 1897, William P Rettberg, an employed of Gretsch since 1889 would purchase John Henry Buckee’s factory and rename it Rettberg & Lange.

In 1966, Sam Ash and Newcorn created a corporation together.

Gretsch, Newcorn, Ash….all  members of the music business community in the 1960’s. The names of  “Gretsch” and ” Newcorn”  stretched back into the  much earlier part of that century as this lovely picture of Charlotte verifies. In, fact their relationship goes back even earlier.

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“Troop C” armory erected in 1904-5 on Bedford Street between President and Union. This new Amory was a model structure. Charles I De Bevoise, Captain. Former quarters were North Portland Ave. This Calvary troop, organized in 1895, served in Puerto Rico in the Spanish American War from May to November in 1898 and in 1900 at the Croton Dam Labor Strike.” Kings View of Brooklyn.
This Armory was just a few block from where the Gretsch boys grew up on President’s Street. The young Gretsch children would have been well aware of its significance in their neighborhood.

For more informaiton about the importance of Armories in American history and to see a detail from the original “Troop C. Armory” in Brooklyn go to:

April 24  On this date papers were filed for the Incorporation of the Fred Gretsch Realty Company. They were filed by Charlotte’s husband Fred, his brother Walter and his mother, Rosa for the purpose of buying and selling of real estate, and for the building of buildings on the property. These three were also the director’s of the company. Rosa lived in Bensonhurst, on Bay 25th Street and Benson Ave. Walter lived with her. Fred lived at 178 Nostrand Ave.

January 27 “Aunt Clara’s wedding day” This entry was found in Charlotte’s diary. Clara was the wife Charlotte’s brother, Louis Sommer.

Despite being married by an Evangelical Lutheran minister, Charlotte raised her children Catholic. According to stories, her husband was not always supportive of her fervent faith. For instance, Barbara Sommer Shea remembers her mother saying that Charlotte’s husband, Fred would not allow his children to be dressed for their first communion in his house. Charlotte had to take her children elsewhere to prepare them for this Catholic ritual.

May 20 Charlotte’s parish, Church of St. Gregory the Great in Brooklyn was dedicated. It is located on Brooklyn Ave at St. Johns Place only about 6 blocks from the Gretsch home on President Street. Charlotte, pregnant with her second son, was surely there at its dedication. Less than a year later, her second son, William, would be baptized there.

July 6 Fred Gretsch, Charlotte’s husband bought property at 110 South 4th Street from Thomas and Apollonia Smith.

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At its dedication, this new church was a frame and blocked tin building, seating 450 people. It was known as “the tin roof church” and was built at a cost of $10,000.  Father Fitzgerald was the new pastor and came from St. Monica’s Church in Jamaica. He brought with him Father Smith from St. Monica’s to be the first resident Assistant Pastor. Father Smith baptized William. Charlotte would have been very familiar with these priests.

December 1 Charlotte’s niece Clara Marieta Sommer was born. She was the daughter of Clara Schultheis and Louie Sommer. One can imagine Charlotte and her sister in law Clara as both awaited the birth of their children.

December 13 Charlotte’s second son, William Walter Gretsch was born. According to a letter written in 1960 by a distant cousin, Dora Gretsch Sitzer, he was affectionately called “Willie Walter”. This most likely was to distinguish him from his second cousin William Charles Gretsch who was born in 1901. William Charles Gretsch descended from Jacob Gretsch. Jacob Gretsch was the brother of  Willie Walter’s grandfather, Wilhelm Gretsch.

Willy Walter was most likely named not only after his father’s grandfather but also after his mother’s father, William Sommer. Walter was the name of his father’s brother. Walter Gretsch and Fred Gretsch were very close business partners at the time of Willie Walter’s birth.

The family was living at 285 Kingston Avenue in Brooklyn. The only copy available of his birth certificate was one that was made on September 22, 1922 and sworn to by William’s father, Fred Gretsch.
For the purpose of this time line, William Walter Gretsch will be occasionally referred to as Willy Walter.

January 2
William Walter was baptized  in St Gregory the Great Parish by Reverend John Smith. This was a catholic ceremony. His maternal grandmother Theresa Leicht Sommer was the godmother. Theresa had been married in the Lutheran Church. When did she change her religion?

William oldest daughter my sister, Charlotte Gretsch Kahrs Pretat tells me that it is a German tradition to have grandmothers act also as godmothers. Charlotte Gretsch Pretat is godmother for her son’s daughter, Sarah Kahrs. Sarah’s maternal grandmother is godmother to Sarah’s sister, Alice.

Bank Panic of 1907.
It began with the Knickerbocker Bank and spread to the smaller banks where the poorer people and the immigrants had their money (Jastrow, Looking Back).

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This post card photo of Charlotte and Fred and their two sons was taken in early 1907. Thanks again to Sidney Newcorn for saving the pictures.  Click on the images to see an enlargement.

April 10
Louie Gretsch, uncle of Charlotte’s husband, died. Louie had been named guardian of his brother’s children and executor of  his will when Fritz died in 1895.

May 17
Charlotte’s husband returns from a business trip to Europe.  He left Cherbourg on May 8th on the “Kronprinz Wilhelm”.

June 24
Rosa Gretsch, the mother of Charlotte’s husband and David Kling were married in Richmond Hill, Queens. It is interesting that Rosa married so soon after Louie died. Perhaps, Louie did not approve of his sister in law’s marrying again.


The summer of 1907 is most likely the time when Charlotte’s infant son, Willy, came down with polio. The disease would cripple him for the rest of his life.

That summer, there was a large outbreak of polio in New York City. At the time, the medical profession was not fully aware of exactly what polio was. Nor did the medical profession know its causes or its proper treatment.

Since Willy was still so little (he was only 6 months old), he couldn’t tell his mother about his symptoms. She did not know that he had been suffering a head ache or a slight sore throat for a few days. Suddenly, the symptoms became acute.

Charlotte first become aware of his illness quite emphatically. One summer afternoon, as she went to pick Willy up from his crib, he howled in pain at the slight touch of her hand.

Charlotte who was so used to the welcoming smiles of her little “Willy Walter” as he awoke from his nap was taken aback.  It was then, that she first noticed he had a small fever.

A short time after that Charlotte noticed that her baby’s little legs did not playfully kick up to her when she tried to change his diaper. Rather, they laid unusually limp on the hard surface of the changing table. She would have sensed immediately that something was terribly wrong.

Charlotte’s fear can only be imaged as there is no record of it.

She only knew the bare facts that were known at the time about polio. It was a killer, a mutilator of infants and children and it was spreading rapidly around the city.

Knowing how much a mother can love her six month old baby and knowing what Charlotte knew about polio at the time, paints a vivid and terrifying picture of this young mother’s thoughts as she dealt with her discovery.

July 18,
Charlotte’s husband, Fred and his brother Walter issue 42 shares of the Fred Gretsch Mfg. Co., worth $100.00 each to Elsa Gretsch.
This stock certificate was given to me, Gretchen Elsner-Sommer around the time of Elsa’s son’s death circa 1996 (?)
They were given to me because no one else in the family wanted them and I was the one interested in family history.

I have no idea why they were given to Elsa on this date, or if shares were also given to the other Gretsch siblings. One this certificate survives.

In the months surrounding the birth of Willy Walter and the discovery of his polio just months later, America and the world was dealing with a financial crisis. During this period of time, there was an international credit shortage, the American stock market crashed twice and the Dow Jones industrial average lost half of its value. These facts must be considered while thinking about “Willy Walter’s” young life and trying to reconstruct how his mother’s thoughts at the time.

Charlotte was certainly aware of the financial situation but with a toddler son and a very ill infant to care for, her focus must have been on the immediate concerns of her children.

“When the New York Stock Exchange nearly closed early one day in October 1907 because financial institutions calling in loans were choking off the market’s money supply, (J. Pierpont) Morgan (a 70 year old private banker) summoned the presidents of New York major commercial banks to his office and came up with $24 million to lend to the exchange. Next, New York City ran out of cash to meet its payroll and interest obligations; Morgan and company conjured up a $30 million loan and prevented default.

At the end of Week 1, President Roosevelt sent a letter to the press congratulating the “substantial businessmen who in this crisis have acted with such wisdom and public spirit.” Shipment of gold were on the way from London to New York, and confidence had returned to the French Burse, ” owing”, reported one paper, “to the belief that the strong men in American finance would succeed in their efforts to check the spirit of the panic.” During a panic, confidence is almost as good as gold.

At the end of Week 2, Morgan called 50 presidents of trust companies to his private library on East 36th St. locked the doors and did not let them out until they had signed on to a final $25 million dollar loan. The scholar of Renaissance art Bernard Berenson told his patron Isabella Stewart Gardner that  “Morgan should be represented as buttressing up the tottering fabric of finance the way Giotto painted St. Francis holding up the falling church with his shoulder.”

……….His ( J.P. Morgan’s) power in 1907 derived not from the size of his own fortune but from the trust placed in him by investors, other bankers and international statesmen. After Morgan died in 1913, the newspapers reported his net worth as $80 million–roughly $1.7 billion in today’s dollars. John D. Rockefeller, already worth a billion in 1913 dollars, is said to have read the figure, shaken his head, and remarked, “And to think he wasn’t even a rich man.”
New York Times, March 23, 2009. Jean Strouse.


More than one hundred years after these event, through subsequent financial crises and ensuing generations, this story of J.P. Morgan’s confidence and heroism is still being told.


But where is the story of my heroic grandmother and the terrifying crisis she faced that same summer.  It has not been passed down. Her children knew it well and did not repeat it. Perhaps, it was too painful and too close. But surely, the fall of the Dow and the crash of the market was also painful and close.

Imagine the confidence and the courage, her grandchildren would gain from listening to their grandmother’s heroic story—a confidence almost as good as gold.

June 14
Charlotte’s third son, Richard Gretsch born.

Please note that Richard was born just one day before the fourth anniversary of the General Slocum Disaster. One thousand people mostly women and children were killed on that day in 1904. See above.

New Yorkers would have remembered this date well, as Americans today remember 9/11.

June 28
Richard was baptized at the Church of St. Gregory the Great in Brooklyn. His grandmother, Theresa Sommer was godmother. Father Timothy Murphy performed the ceremony.

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Charlotte and her children soon after Richard was born.

July 1
Charlotte and Fred Gretsch appeared before D. Ray McDonald, the comr. of deeds in the city of New York to state that they sold an interest in their property at 110 South Fourth Street to Walter Gretsch.

The following pictures are from a photo album which belonged to John/Jack Sommer, Charlotte’s youngest brother.

They were probably taken around 1909 or 1910. It is also quite possible that they were not all taken in one particular summer.

It seems as if William and Theresa Sommer, their children and grandchildren had gathered around a rented vacation home.

It is interesting to note that there are three generations of the family represented.
A special dog appears in several pictures and there is even a kitten for the little children.

Many of the pictures in the album have not yet been identified. However, the picture below are surely of Charlotte and her family. Note the tent in the background of the auto picture.
Perhaps, the family camped out when they visited their Sommer relatives.

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Charlotte and Fred and children. Note the tent in the background.

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Freddie and Willy Walter with unidentified friend.

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Dick Gretsch.

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Freddie & Willie Walter with Clara Sommer. Note the cats and Willy’s large shoe.

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Freddie and Willy Walter with unidentified women.

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Charlotte and Fred with Willy Walter and Freddie.

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Fred and Willy Walter. Note the awkward angle of Willy’s foot as his brother helps him walk in the sand.

The photos below are from the same album.

Pictured here are Philip Sommer, Charlotte’s oldest brother with his wife Augusta (Gussie) and their children.
Charlotte is their oldest daughter, Emilie the second daughter and William Sommer.
These children were first cousins to the Gretsch boys pictured above.

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Philip and Gussie Sommer
Charlotte and Emilie

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Gussie and her three oldest children.

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William, Emilie and Charlotte Sommer.
Children of Philip and Gussie.

The photos underneath are from the same album. Note Charlotte’s parents and brothers.

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Charlotte’s parents, William and Theresa. Note the riding coat that that they are both wearing. Riding in an open car was dirty business.

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Theresa and her son Jack.

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Theresa, her son Charlie and granddaughter, perhaps Clara Sommer, daughter of Louie Sommer.

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Jack, Theresa, William Philip, Clara, Louie(?), (?) Note, this is the same little girl pictured with the Gretsch boys and the cats.

At some point in the time frame of Willy Walter’s toddler hood, he contracted polio.
His younger brother Richard told his own son Rick in 2005 that Bill had had polio since he was a toddler.
Looking at the pictures above of the Gretsch boys on the beach it is noticeable that Willy Walter’s right foot may have been having some difficulty.

June 2
Elsa Gretsch and Joseph T. Clauss married  in Richmond Hill, Queens, New York.
Helene and Louis Gretsch, siblings to the bride,  were the witnesses.
Elsa had been living with Fred and Charlotte and their young children at 285 Kingston Avenue at the time of her marriage.  Perhaps, she was helping to take care of the new baby Richard and Willian who was recovering from Polio.
Elsa and Joe’s oldest son Teddy told the story that in 1908, his father Joe Clauss worked with Louie Gretsch at a Bank in Brooklyn. Both  men were bachelors. Louie lived with his mother and siblings at the time. One night, Louie took Joe home to dinner. At the dinner table, Louie introduced Joe to his three sisters, Elsa, Helen and Hertha. ” Pick one”, he said.  So the story goes. Joe who was raised Catholic left the church when he married Elsa. This caused a great riff between him and his parents.
Charlotte on the other hand was adamant about raising her children in the Catholic Church. One can imagine the family discussions around these issues.

October 2
More than a million people watched the parade which commemorated the “discovery” of the Hudson River in 1609 and the invention of the steam engine. This parade was credited at the time as being the greatest in the history of New York City. It began at 1 pm on 110th Street and Central Park West , going down Central Park across Columbus Circle, and down Fifth Avenue. (Jastrow, Looking Back)

Would the family, especially little Fred and Willy Walter, have been invited to watch the parade from the home of Charlotte’s Aunt Eliza Kruger who lived at 113th Street ? Charlotte’s cousins Anna and Elizabeth Moeller also lived nearby.

February until May Fred on business trip to Europe. This fact is recorded in Fred’s 1921 passport application. However, property records show that Fred was in New York in March of that year. See below. He must have gotten the dates of his business trip wrong.

March 11 Charlotte’s sister in law, Helen Gretsch, gives a  performance as Helene Hope at a New York theatre. Did Charlotte attend?

Thursday, March 15 Helene Gretsch, graduates from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
A New York Times article dated March 16, reads “The graduation exercises of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts were held at the Empire Theatre yesterday afternoon and consisted of the awarding of diplomas to members of the class and of an address by Helen Ware.”

In 1980, Ted Clauss wrote to me that the American Academy of Dramatic Arts was a four year program held at Carnegie Hall.
Before entering that course, Helene studied at The Emerson School Of Elecution in Boston, Mass.

Helene Hope on stage during this period.

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Ted Clauss wrote further of Helen’s work ” Aunt Helen’s first work in the theater was secured for her through the Academy, and she had small parts in plays with De Wolfehopper. Later, she toured in  straight with Sidney Drew, in light comedy, and also with John Drew, in the heavy stuff. She did no musicals. During the years she did several short plays with Wiliam Farnaum, one of which I saw at the Flatbush Theater in 1918, and can still remember it. She had a regular agent, who shipped her on tours all over the U.S. and Canada. She used the stage name Helene Hope . She also toured with Otis Skinner of theatre fame and knew Cornelia Otis Skinner the  monologuist (?)”

March 16
On this date the Commissioner of Deeds Morgan T. Donnelly states that Fred Gretsch, Charlotte Gretsch and Walter Gretsch appeared before him in order to transfer the property at 110-114 South 4th Street to the Gretsch Corporation.

March 31
Fred and Charlotte Gretsch were transferring more property on South 4th Street to the Gretsch Corporation in front of Morgan T. Donnelly, commissioner of deeds.

April 28 T
he US Census taken by Mrs. Norma Pidgeon on this day enumerates:
Frederick Gretsch with his wife Charlotte, sons Frederick (5), William(3) and Richard(1).
Private Nurse Helen Swigg age 25 is living with the family. She is from Georgia.
Selma Weiss a servant 25 years old also lives with the family. She was born in NY but is of German decent. The family is living at 285 Kingston Ave. and owns the home.
The Private nurse, Helen is new with the family because in the year 1909 she was without work for five weeks.
Two other women also live at this same address. They rent their apartment. Katherine F (age 35) and Helen Waddy (age 27) are sisters of Irish decent. The oldest sister is a Milliner and works at home, the younger is a public school teacher.

The US Census in this year also notes that Charlotte’s oldest brother Philip L Sommer is living in Passaic, New Jersey at 96 high Street with his wife Augusta, daughter Charlotte age 10 born in New York, daughter Emile born in New York, age 7, son William age 6 born in New York and son Philip, 3 months. Two servants Theresa Hukel age 18 and Ida Morakovitch age 16 both born in Germany are also listed. Theyowned this house and Philip worked as a manager of wholeesale houses(?). The family would live at this address for many years.

Note the family pictures above of Philip and his family.

Charlotte’s children, Fred, Dick and Willy Walter around 1910. Dick tells the story that his grandfather, William Sommer who owned a grocery store in Manhattan, would pick up the boys in his horse drawn delivery carriage and take the boys with him as he took baskets of groceries to his high class clients on Long Island for the summer. Perhaps the basket in this picture is from the children’s grandfather’s store.

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This picture of Charlotte’s older sons Fred and Willy Walter was probably taken at 285 Kingston Ave. in Brooklyn circa 1910 in the winter time.
Click on the image to see an enlargement.
Note again the large shoe on Willy Walter’s right foot.
To read an essay about this photo, go to the home page and on the navigation bar select “Essays”. Then select “Unrecorded Influence”.

March 5 Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire, 150 people killed.

February 12 Charlotte’s niece, Charlotte Sommer, daughter of Augusta (Gussie) and Philip, died of diphtheria. She was 12 years old. She was buried in the Lutheran Cemetery in a plot purchased by her grandfather, William Sommer. See her picture above in the summer of 1910.

March 1
New York Times reports that a fire shortly after 6 o’clock last night at 374 Bedford Ave. “The fire threatened to spread to the new Gretsch Building, a six story concrete structure directly behind the factory running from South Fourth to South Fifth Street”

April 10
The Titanic began its maiden voyage from England on April 10, 1912 with much celebration and hoopla. It was reported to be an unsinkable ship. On the Titanic’s first class passenger list was John Jacob Astor IV and his bride, Madeleine Force who was pregnant. (Also two servants and an Airedale named Kitty!) There was much whispering about Madeleine as she was so much younger than her newly divorced husband. She was only 19.

April 12
The Titanic struck an iceberg. There were not enough life boats for all of the passengers.
John Jacob Astor IV went down with the ship, as did Guggenheim and several other prominent millionaires. Astor’s bride got into a lifeboat and was among those saved. The baby she was carrying was born later that year, John Jacob Astor V. He eventually (1943) married Gertrude Gretsch who was the only child of Fred’s brother Walter Gretsch. (Fred Gretsch in fact walked Gertrude down the aisle at her very stylish wedding.) At the time of the disaster (1912), Walter was not yet married to Gertrude’s mother.

While Charlotte didn’t know of her family’s future connections to the Astor family, she most certainly was very much aware of the sinking of this “unsinkable” ship.

June 12
Fred’s cousin Johanna Morgner married Fred Brose in Winachee, Washington. Johanna was the only child of Phillipina Gretsch Morgner. Charlotte must have been keeping track of this marriage of her husband’s cousin. Johanna was married by a Catholic priest. Phillipina Gretsch made the trip to Washington State to attend the marriage.

The school for the Church of St. Gregory the Great was opened in two houses at 995  & 997 St. John’s Place. Did the Gretsch boys attend this school?

Dora Gretsch, a second cousin of Fred, left Brooklyn and went to Detroit to marry Daniel Setzer. Daniel whose family lived in upstate New York, was working as a street car driver in Detroit. They had met in the Catskill mountains where the Gretsch family often vacationed in the 1890’s. Dora’s much older sisters Emily and Wilhelmina Gretsch with whom she had been living and who never married, highly disapproved.
Dora had been close to Fred and his siblings while they were growing up. Charlotte, who was pregnant with her fourth child, must have been aware of this large upset in the family.

Woodrow Wilson elected president.

December 12

Philip Gretsch, uncle to Charlotte’s husband dies in San Francisco.

December 28

Charlotte’s husband Fred wrote a letter on this date to his cousin Llewellyn Gretsch age 18, son of Philip Gretsch.
Llewellyn’s parents were divorced in the early 1900’s and Llewellyn mother’s Frederica Junker was remarried in 1909 to George Ponarouse.
Click on the letter below to read an enlargement.

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February 13
McGown Pass Tavern

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On this date the new York times reported that the Early Risers Riding Club met at the Mcgown Pass Tavern in Central Park to elect new officers and select new members. J. George Flammer, the husband of Charlotte Holzderber Flammer was elected an honorary member.

This postcard of the McGown Pass Tavern gives an insight into life at the turn of the last century for riders in Central Park. I wonder if Charlotte and her boys keep in touch with Charlotte and George Flammer.

Charlotte and George Flammer had a son Harold who was seven years younger than Charlotte Sommer. Charlotte and Harold would have grown up knowing each other. Perhaps, Charlotte and Fred named their new born son after Harold Flammer.

February 27 Charlotte’s son, Harold Joseph Gretsch born.

February 28 Harold Joseph baptized, Charlotte’s brother Leo Sommer was the sponsor.
So presumably Leo was also Catholic.

Where was Charlotte’s mother, Theresa? Was she too sick to attend? She had been at the baptism of  Charlotte’s older sons, William and Richard. Baptized by Msgr. Maurice P. Fitzgerald.
Charlotte Gretsch’s boys on President’s Street in Brooklyn around the time that her last son Harold was born in 1913. Dick remembers that they owned their own pony.

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Note: Pete Sweeney standing up in back; Bill (aka Willy) in front left corner; Fred in front right corner; Ray McGill between Fred and Bill; Dick in back of Ray; Milton Guick in back of Bill.
Pete Sweeney was a good friend of Charlotte’s children from childhood. He remained a part of their lives through adulthood.

Marion Gretsch Wells told me that Pete Sweeney was very much involved with the Millrose Games which were track and field games which were  held in Madison Square Gardens every year.
In 1935 when Dick traveled around the world and kept a diary, he refers to Pete Sweeney looking for star players for the track events for the Millrose Games.
In the 1950’s after my father,  Bill Gretsch died, Pete used to come to the house on Shorthill Road and put the star on our Christmas tree. Pete was very tall.

On the back of the photo, the photographer’s stamp reads: Horses in Action, Home Portraits, 55 Cedar St., Brooklyn, N.Y. Phone 6768 Brunswick. H.G. Grimmell, Speed Photographer.
Someone, probably it was Charlotte, went to special care to employ this photographer who was uniquely qualified to take this photo!

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Charlotte around 1913. This small picture of Charlotte was found in a rectangular brass frame in the home of her son Fred Gretsch circa 1973.
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Charlotte’s youngest son Dick had this small passport photo of his mother in 1996. It looks as if both pictures were taken in the same photographic sitting. The angle of the pose is different but the hat and outfit appear to be the same.

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March 4 Woodrow Wilson inaugurated. With a brand new sick child in the house, I am sure Charlotte wasn’t paying close attention to the political situation.

March 9 Harold Gretsch died at  1460 President Street.

March 10 Harold Gretsch buried at Lutheran Cemetery next to his young cousin, Charlotte Sommer. Very strange that Harold would be baptized Catholic and then be buried in a Lutheran Cemetery.

The day Harold was buried was the eight birthday of his older brother, Fred.

April 13 Charlotte’s aunt, her father’s eldest sister, Eliza Sommer Kruger died.

April until July Charlotte’s husband Fred is in Europe on a business trip.

June 16 Charlotte’s mother, Theresa Sommer died, Bautis disease, cirrhosisof the liver, (62 years old).
Theresa was buried in the Lutheran Cemetery with her two infant grandchildren. There is a very large stone there with a woman in mourning sitting on top. Was this stone placed there at Theresa’s death?
At the time of her death, Theresa lived in the same house on West 54th Street where Charlotte was married 11years previously.

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June 18 Charlotte’s husband Fred returns from a business trip to Europe. He must have left shortly after the death of their infant son, Harold. He arrived on the ship Imperator which sailed from Hamburg.

So Charlotte’s husband was gone in the months after the death of their son and during the illness and death of her mother. It was some years before Fred left on another trip to Europe.

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Note Charlotte’s beautiful hand writing.
August 6 On this date, Charlotte sat down to write a note (see above) to Aunt Susie and Uncle Jim. By signing the note “our love” Charlotte accentuated the bond between this aunt and uncle and her boys.

No doubt she also wanted to share her pride in her fine looking sons. This was a difficult year for Charlotte. She lost a baby, her aunt died and her mother passed away. This saved post card gives us a glimpse into one moment of this year. Perhaps, there were many times when Charlotte wrote to friends and family. However, this is the only saved record. Charlotte must have been comforted often in this sad year by the energy and health of her three young sons.

Margaret Sanger publishes her newspaper Woman Rebel in NYC. Although Sanger did not give information about birth control in the first issue, she promised to do so in the ensuing ones. The publication was confiscated by the US Mail and was not delivered. At the time, there was much press about this action. Charlotte was steadfastly Catholic, but she had had 4 pregnancies. Charlotte at the very least would have been thinking about birth control and the timely issues which surrounded its use. Did she know about this publication going on right in her own city? Was she interested?

December 28
The New York Times announces the engagement of Charlotte’s younger brother Leo to Gertrude Rohe. Her father
Charles Rohe is in the meat packing business and lives at 17 West 87th Street in Manhattan.

June 19,
Helen Elise Moeller, cousin of Charlotte Sommer Gretsch was married at Evangelical Lutherine Churchof the Advent at Broadway and Ninety-third Street in Manhattan.
Helen’s grandmother, Eliza Sommer Moeller,  and Charlotte’s father, William were siblings.
William and Eliza were the children of  Regina Winklein and Philip Sommer.
The members of the Sommer family at the wedding were :

Clara Sommer,
Giussie Sommer
Chas F. Sommer
Louis F. Sommer
Arthur L. Sommer
George H(?) Sommer
Charles H(?) Sommer
Philip L. Sommer
Emilie Sommer
William Sommer
Jack A. Sommer
Mrs. F(?) Sommer
Louis L. Sommer

Also, Anna M. Moeller who was Eliza Sommer Moeller’s  daughter from her first marriage.
Many thanks to Brianda Domecq, for this information for providing this information about her grandmother’s wedding.

June 28
Archduke Ferdinand and his wife are assassinated.

Summer Lake Morey, in Vermont was a place that Richard Gretsch remembered going to as a child for summer vacations. However, by the time I asked him about it in 2007, all he could remember was the name.
I was surprised to find in 2010, while reading a biography of Helen Gahagan Douglas, that her family who also lived in Brooklyn in the early 1900’s also vacationed at Lake Morey in Vermont.
Was there some kind of connection between Brooklyn and Lake Morey that I have yet to discover?
Did the Gretsch family perhaps know the Gahagans?

August World War 1 starts in Europe. A time of anguish for German-American as they watch the war unfold. The War’s consequences on the growing Gretsch business was certainly an area of concern.

Nathan Jonas writes in his autobiography about the circumstances surrounding the building of the Gretsch Building Number 4 at 60 Broadway.

” After we merged with the Manufacturer’s National Bank in 1914, there was a row of unsightly building taking up the whole block below the office of the Manufacturer’s National Bank. Acting upon my creative policy as bank president, I prevailed upon Fred and Walter Gretsch to plan a large manufacturing building on that site, helped them with their plans and with their financing, including assisting in securing a first mortgage on the building.
They were so grateful for all the time and assistance I had given them, which included nights and Sundays, that they insisted on giving Mrs. Jonas a certificate for $2000.00 of the preferred stock in the new building cooperation. While I felt that here was one case where perhaps the taking of this stock by Mrs. Jonas was justified, I would not accept it until I had presented the letter and the offer to the Board of Directors of my bank.
When they approved of its acceptance, a notation was made in the minutes of the meeting to that effect. It happened that this was the only case where I permitted stock to be presented to either Mrs. Jonas or myself. After I had left the bank this matter was scrutinized by my successors but my record was crystal-clear.”

Charlotte, whose husband was away so often during the planning and construction process was also certainly  affected on a very personal level by the growth of her husband’s business. She would have discussed this with her friend Jennie Jonas. The friendship of Jennie Jonas and Charlotte Gretsch was often described as “intimate” in Nathan’s autobiography.

Charlotte’s first cousin, Anna M. Moeller died.

November 1
New York Times : The Wedding of Miss Gertrude Rohe, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Rohe of 17 West Eighty-seventh Street, and Leopold Sommer, will take place on Wednesday evening, Nov. 11, in the Church of the Advent. Miss Elsa Dohse is to be maid of honor, and the brides-maids will be Misses Vivienne Kranich, Loretta Kuser, Olga Moore, and Frances Paine. Charles S. Sommer is to be his brother’s best man, and the ushers will include William Flammer, John Dohse, Charles Rohe, Jr. and John Sommer.
NB—On JUne 14 of this same year another Sommer relative, Helen Elise Moeller, whose grandmother was Eliza Sommer and Aunt to Leo Sommer!

November 12
This picture of Gertrude Rohe Sommer and her bridesmaids was sent to me by her granddaughter Cindy Reya in 2005. The bride looks radiant and the elegance of the wedding is reflected in the flowers and dresses of the wedding party.

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New York Times: Miss Rohe Weds Leopold Sommer
Miss Gertrude Rohe, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Rohe of 17 West Eighty-seventh Street, was married to Leopold Sommer at 8 o’clock last evening in the church of the Advent, Broadway and Ninety Third Street. The Reverend Walter M. Horn, Minster of the church officiated.
Miss Elsa Dohse was maid of honor. the brides-maids were the Misses Vivienne Kranich, Olga Moore and Frances Paine.
Mr. Sommer had as his best man his brother Charles W. Sommer. the ushers were John Dohse, John Sommer, William Flammer, and Charles Rohe Jr.
The ceremony was followed by a reception at the Hotel Savoy.

Please note that one of the ushers was William Flammer. This was a first cousin of Leo’s first cousin Arthur Sommer. William Flammer lived at the time at 124 West 87th Street, not too far from where the bride lived. Perhaps, it was through William Flammer that Leo and Gertrude met.

December 22 Charlotte’s husband’s aunt, Phillipina Gretsch Morgner keeper of a boarding house called “Myra Cottage,” commited suicide in Bath Beach, Brooklyn. Fred being the oldest of the nephews would have been contacted immediately. This family death and burial must have dampened the family’s Christmas.

December 26 Phillipina was buried at The Evergreens Cemetery. She is buried with her younger brother Jacob Gretsch and various in-laws. She is not buried with her husband and young son who also laid to rest at The Evergreens years earlier.

Carrie Flammer Sommer, aunt of Charlotte Sommer died. She did not trust her sons, so she left her entire estate to her grandchildren. The sons were able to break the will. The judge said you could not leave an estate to grandchildren still unborn.
The Sommer brothers lost all of their money as their mother had predicted. Arthur’s brothers influenced him and he got into shady deals and lost all of his money. ( Carlotta F. Shaw )

January 30 After the suicide of Philippine, Johanna M. Brose and Fred Gretsch of 1460 President Street petition the court for the property of Johanna’s mother, Philippine. Her property did not exceed $1250.00 and included no real estate.

February 10 Fred Gretsch solemnly swore and declared that he will well, faithfully and honestly discharge of the duties of Administrator of the Goods, Chattels and Credits which were of Philippine Morgner, deceased, according to the law. This was the 34th birthday of Fred Gretsch.

Census reports that Anna Kliegl wife of John H. Kleigl was 37 years old, John was 45.
Children Alfred-15, Frances-14, Herbert A-11, Anna B. -7.
Frances would marry John Sommer, Charlotte’s younger brother who was born in 1898.
Did the families know each other then from Elka Park?

May 6 Hertha Gretsch, youngest sister of Charlotte’s husband wins her court case and secures the small fortune left to her by Jacob Hyman. Read more details on Hertha’s time line in this website.
The winning of this court case secured the sudden wealth of Fred’s younger sisters. Hertha received the largest portion of  Jacob’s estate. to read more about the circumstances around this inheritance see Hertha’s timeline on this website.

May 7 The Lusitania, a British passenger liner with several hundred American citizens aboard, was sunk by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland. Many people believed that this was a powerful reason for the United States to enter war against Germany.

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Willy Walter Gretsch standing above his brothers, Fred and Dick, circa 1914. According to Timothy J. Mallery this picture ” looks…like one of the small, swampy lakes formed by small dams around Tannersville.” There was such a lake in Elka Park. Timothy sent me the picture below of such a lake in Elka Park.

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From the collection of Timothy J. Mallery,

This picture of the Gretsch boys was given to Gretchen Elsner-Sommer in the fall of 2002 by Barbara Sommer Shea.  It was found in a photograph album belonging to Charlie Sommer. Charlie was a younger brother of Charlotte. It’s not surprising to find a picture of Charlie’s young nephews in his photo album.

In these years, when the family traveled to Elka Park, they would have taken a boat from Manhattan up the Hudson and ” almost certainly landed at Kingston Point, to meet the U&D train to Phoenicia, and then the train to Tannersville.”
Thank you, Timothy J. Mallery for this archival information about travel in the Catskills.

These old postcard give a clear picture of just what travel looked like in that neck of the woods, when Charlotte’s boys were small. You can almost see Charlotte and her boys in the crowds at the station.

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The U&D RR Station, Catskill Mountains, Tannersville, New York.

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Station at Kaaterskill, Catskill Mountains, New York

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Catskill Mts. New York, The Incline Railway

Once the family arrived, they most likely stayed here in the Club House.

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Elka Park Club, Tannersville, Catskill Mts. N.Y.

Or perhaps, they stayed in the Kliegl home. Charlotte’s brother John, had many friends at Elka Park in this era of his bachelorhood. Below is a picture postcard from the Klieg’s porch. Tim Mallery describes the scenery, “The view is directly north, the mountains in the distance are Thomas cole, Balck Dome, and Blackhead.”

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“From the collection of Timothy J. Mallery,“.

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“From the collection of Timothy J. Mallery,“.

In 1925, John Sommer, Charlotte’s younger brother, married the John H. and Anna Kliegl’s daughter, Frances.
Frances’s mother at the time was living at 758 West End Avenue.  Barbara Sommer Shea told me that 37 Shorthill Road, Charlotte’s address was the hub of her parent’s courtship.
It is unclear if Charlotte and her boys traveled to Elka Park before John married Frances Kliegl. However, Dick Gretsch, Charlotte’s youngest boy has a clear memory of breaking his nose climbing the tree in Frances Kliegl Sommer’s yard in Elka Park.
Frances’ younger brother, Herbert A. Kliegl, was born February 14, 1904. Herbert was just a little older than Charlotte’s boys. Fred and Bill Gretsch and Herbert Kliegl were good friends. They were also distantly related because Charlotte ‘s brother was married to Herbert’s aunt.
On November 25, 1932,  Ruth Walsh married Herbert Kliegl. Ruth’s mother was Maria Bungly. Fred, Bill and Dick certainly were invited to this wedding of their distant cousin.

June 2 The New York Times reported that “Charles William Sommer was married last night”. His bride was Frances May Duval.

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The Times continued “Little Miss Emilie Sommer, a niece of the bridegroom  as the flower girl wore a frock of white lace and chiffon and carried an inverted leghorn hat filled with rose petals. John Sommer was his brother’s best man. The ushers included George Kaiser Jr., Leopold and Louis Sommer, brothers of the bridegroom and Arthur Sommer his cousin.” .

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A digital copy of this picture of Frances May Duval on her wedding day June 1, 1915 was sent to me by my cousin Judy Gretsch Getchell. The real picture hangs in her father’s apartment in Danbury, Connecticut. It was just two weeks before Dick’s seventh birthday in 1915 when he posed for this picture.

It is interesting that the New York Times doesn’t mention Dick Gretsch. The little girl in the picture however is identified as Little Emilie Sommer.  Dick was Charlotte’s youngest son and Emilie was the daughter of Philip and Augusta.

I wonder why Dick is not mentioned in the NYT’s. Was this picture taken days before in the photographers studeio…and possibly Dick was sick for the wedding????

This precious picture saved by Dick for more than 90 years proves that there is much more to history than what is published in the New York Times.

Charlotte must have been very pleased with and proud of her adorable youngest son in his white satin pants and ruffled shirt.

June 13 Sunday, The New York Times. “Fifteen old two and three story frame buildings that have stood on lower Broadway in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn for a quarter of a century were torn down last week to make way for an eleven-story reinforced concrete building to be erected by Gretsch Brothers at a cost of about $650,OOO.OO.
The building occupies the entire block frontage of Broadway from Betty Street to Wythe Avenue with the exception of the Manufacturer’s Citizen’s Trust Company building. This is the fourth loft building to be erected by the Gretsch Brothers during the past five years and indicates the demand among manufacturers for lofts in this section
Although the building will not be ready for occupancy until January 1916, seven floors have been leased from the plans for twenty-years terms, one of the leases to Braunworth & Co., bookbinders, aggregating about $600.000.
Not only have loft buildings attracted the real estate operators to this section, but the records show more modern sixteen to thirty family apartment houses are now in course of construction than in any other part of Brooklyn.”

These must be the “unsightly buildings” that Nathan S. Jonas referred to in his autobiography, Through the Years.

” After we merged with the Manufacturers National Bank in 1914, there was a row of unsightly building taking up the whole block below the office of the Manufacturers National Bank. Acting upon my creative policy as bank president, I prevailed upon Fred and Walter Gretsch to plan a large manufacturing building on that site. helped them with their plans and with their financing including assistance in securing a first mortgage in the building.”

This building was 60 Broadway.

For more information about the relationship between the Gretsch family and Nathan S. Jonas, see “The Library” section of this website. There you can read more about Jonas’ autobiography, Through The Years, in which Charlotte Gretsch and her husband, Fred are frequently mentioned.

June 27 The New York Times reports that Schaffer and Budenburg manufacturers of steam gauges and thermometers will lease the greater portion of the corporate building to be built by the Gretsch Cooperation at 60 Broadway. They also report that construction will commence immediately upon  the demolition of seven dwelling houses now on the spot. The building will be ready for occupancy by January 1, 1916.

October 15 Edith Cavell, a British nurse at a Red Cross hospital in Belgium was executed by a German firing squad for helping 200 Allied soldiers to escape. Her execution at 2 A.M. that morning helped to harden American public opinion against the Germans. Charlotte no doubt was effected by this as was her whole family.

November 10 Charlotte’s niece Emilie died of endocarditis. This little Emilie, just 13 years old, was the same little niece who just a few months earlier was the flower girl in Charlie Sommer’s wedding. (Emilie was born in 1902.) She was buried beside her older sister Charlotte and her grandmother in the Lutheran Cemetery. How the family must have mourned her passing.

To see pictures of Emilie and her sister Charlotte, look above in the year 1910 when the family gathered for summer vacation.

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Charlotte and her sons, circa 1915

March 5 Charlotte R. Sommer, daughter of Leo and Gertrude Sommer is born. Charlotte records her birthday in her diary.

June 4 Vassar Graduation. Isabel Jonas, daughter of Charlotte and Fred’s good friends graduates.
Isabel Jonas had been dating a young man Jules E. Rosenthal from Cornell and there is talk of their marriage.
Perhaps, this is when Charlotte first starts thinking about sending her son Fred to Cornell. Her husband Fred is very much opposed to this idea of his son going to college. Neither he nor Nathan Jonas went to college and Fred Sr. doesn’t see the worth of it.

Summer, the polio epidemic.
Rosa Gretsch Kling takes Teddy Clauss with her to the New Jersey countryside where he will be safe from the city and polio….Were Charlotte’s boys not invited ?

An article in the NYT  July 15, 1915 discussed how  a traveler with children under 16 years of age had to present ” a health certificate from the health authorities” at the point of departure stating that his premises were free from polio.  “The children accompanying traveler had been inspected and show no evidence of the disease.” It was a U.S. Public Health Service Certificate. Did Rosa have to get such a certificate to take her grandson with her?

Copy of these certificates can be found, Record Group 90-1712, Box 157, National Archives, D.C. Do they have a record there of the certificates issued?

Years later, Teddy remembers that three operations were preformed on Bill. I remember Teddy telling me that the thought at the time was that if you cut the tendon it would grow back stronger.

The Treatment of Infantile Paralysis  by Robert W. Lovett M.D. was published in 1917. Chapter V entitled Treatments discusses ” Operative -Operations to improve function-tendon transplantation- Nerve transplantation- Operations to improve stability-Athrodesis-Substitutues for Arthrodesis of the Ankle-Silk Ligaments-Tenodesis-Astragalectomy-Tendon Shortenng-Summary of Operative Measures.”

I sure Charlotte and her husband heard all these terms as they consulted with the doctors and were advised of the best operations for their son.

In the section on Tendon Shortening, Lovett writes ” A few words should be said about the stretched and elongated tendons in infantile paralysis because it would be such an obviously simple thing to do and if effective it would have a wide application. But in general it is unsatisfactory probably because in most instances the conditions which caused the stretching in the first place are still existent and will cause it again, because paralyzed tendons appear to stretch under continued tension.”  Is this what happened to my Dad?

More than 80 years later, Teddy believes that the doctors didn’t really know what they were doing at the time. The danger of infection was great . Bill was lucky he survived these operations.

I imagine that one of my father’s operation was the Tendon Shortening operation mentioned above.

The operations did Bill no harm but they also did him no good. Maybe these operations were preformed to relieve (something like a swelling). Uncle Teddy was very angry about these operations. The doctors were so inadequate. Poor Teddy is still after so many years so sad about his cousin’s illness.
Charlotte’s worries and fears for her children must have been great.

July 1 It is reported on this date in the Music Trade Review that Charlotte and her husband Fred had gone on a cruise up the Hudson with the National Associations of Piano Merchants and their friends last Friday.

August 4 The New York Times reported ” Jay Seth Jonas the 12 year old son of Nathan S. Jonas, President of the Manufacturers Trust Company of Brooklyn died yesterday in the Jewish hospital of that borough of infantile paralysis. The boy showed the first symptoms of the disease on Tuesday while at the summer home of his parents at Roslyn and was taken at once to the hospital in Brooklyn in an automobile.”
Charlotte and Fred were very close friends with Jennie and Nathan Jonas.
See Through the Years by Nathan Jonas. the Nathan and the Gretsch families not only shared business interest but also the illness of their sons.

November Woodrow Wilson re-elected president on the slogan,” He kept us out of war.”

In 1916, a little white chapel was built at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs parish in Forest Hills.  IT was built where the parking lot of the school now stands. One year later, Rev. Joseph R. McLaughlin was appointed pastor and took up residence at the Forest Hills Inn. I am sure Charlotte knew him.
Years later, in the 1950’s, Charlotte’s son’s widow, my mother, Maxine (Sylivia) Gretsch would take her four young kids to visit Father McLaughlin who was now a very old man. We would practice songs to sing to him. One was “I’ve been working on the Rail Road”.

In the winter of 1917, Charlotte and Fred travel to Asheville, North Carolina with their intimate friends Nathan and Jennie Jonas.
See Through the Years by Nathan Jonas. On this trip Nathan began his interest in the game of golf. Also, at this time, the Nathan’s sold their home in Roslyn with its sad memories and purchased a home in Forest Hills Gardens (p.259-60). Probably they wanted to be near their friends, Charlotte and Fred who were living there at the time.

This is interesting because in May of 1911, Edward Bouton the general manager of the Forest Hill Project suggested that ” the Hebrew and the Gentile do not come together in a natural way as social friends and as neighbors”  and subsequently Hebrew families were discouraged from living in Forest Hills Gardens.
The friendship of Charlotte and Fred Gretsch with Jennie and Nathan Jonas seems to have surpassed the less than progressive stance of the Forest Hills Corporation.

Also in the winter of 1917, Annie Oakley now 67 years old was retired from her Wild West Show days and living in Pinehurst, North Carolina. There Annie Oakley taught women how to shoot.
Did Charlotte and Jennie think of Annie who was also in North Carolina in the winter of 1917?

March 1 The Zimmerman telegram is made public.
AND MEXICO TO JOIN HER; FULL TEXT OF HER PROPOSAL MADE PUBLIC.  Although the telegram was at first met with some question of its authenticity, Zimmerman himself quelled these feeling by admitting, ” I can not deny it. It is true.” The public was inflamed. It seems certain that the United States will enter the war.

April 16 War declared.
“Anti-German” sentiment ran high in America after the U.S. entered the war. Charlotte and her family would have been keenly effected by this. “Sauerkraut” was now called “Victory Cabbage” and schools stopped teaching the German language. Charlotte’s oldest son Fred, who was in high school at the time recalled that his German class was discontinued. The German Savings Bank of Brooklyn changed its name to the Lincoln Savings Bank in order to appear more patriotic. Charlotte’s husband Fred, was very much involved with the bank at this time. These were anxious times for German-Americans.

June 5 Leopold Sommer signs up with the Draft. He lived at 315 West 97th Street with his wife and child.
June 22 Charlotte’s cousin Arthur Theodore Sommer was married to Salletta Pressinger Miller at the St. Regis Hotel in New York City. Arthur had recently been an usher at Charles Sommer marriage in 1915. Arthur was the son of Louis and Carrie Flammer Sommer.  Witnesses were Augusta A. Anger and Charles Flammer Sommer (sister and brother of Arthur). The Reverend Daniel Russell, DD performed the ceremony.
Note that in the 1895 photo of the Sommer Family, Charlotte has her hand on Arthur Sommer’s shoulder. Arthur was five years younger than Charlotte.
On February 15, 2005, , via the internet, Carlotta Fink Shaw got in touch with me, Gretchen Elsner-Sommer.
Carlotte is the wife of  Arthur and Salletta’s grandson, Ransom B. Shaw.  Carlotta was able to give me lots of information about Arthur’s marriage and his children.

Isobel Jonas, daughter of Jenny and Nathan is married to Jules E. Rosenthal, a graduate of Cornell. I wonder if Charlotte and Fred were there.

September 15,
Reverend Joseph McLaughlin officially became the first resident pastor of  Our Lady Queen of Martyrs on this date. This date was the feast day of Our lady Queen of Sorrows.  It was the day after Maxine Elsner Gretsch’s birth in Joplin, MO. A quote from the passage celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Sorrow which that day celebrates refers to “Our Lady Queen of Martyrs”— so the new parish got its name—according to an article by Cheryl Cuddeback, September 16, 2012. This article was written to commemorate the Centennial, in the Forest Hills Celebrity and Entertainment Magazine.

circa 1918 Charlotte’s husband and Nathan Jonas joined the Sound View Golf Course in Great Neck. This was just one year after Fred had taught Nathan how to play golf in North Carolina.

The two men went on to form the Fresh Meadows Country Club in Flushing in 1922 and the Lakeville Golf Course in 1925 in Great Neck.

early May Charlotte’s first cousin, Augusta Anger and her husband John have a still born child.
They lived at 365 West End Ave in New York City.
The never had more children. After the second world war, Augusta’s grown nephew Matheson Miller would come to live with them at 48 Park Ave in Manhasset. Charlotte’s son Fred and his family also lived in Manhasset at this time.

May Charlotte’s husband, Fred Sr., becomes a member of the Board of the Lincoln Saving Bank. He began working on the Finance Committee in 1925. He was elected to Vice President in 1930 and President in 1940. In 1950, he was elevated to Chairman of the Board of Trustees. In August of 1953, Fred, Charlotte and Fred’s oldest son, following in his father’s footsteps, was elected Vice President of the Lincoln Savings Bank.

September 12 Charlotte’s husband registers for the draft. he is living at 41 Shorthill Road in Forest Hills. Apparently, Fred and Charlotte lived at this address while their house right next door at 37 Shorthill Road was being build.

September 23 The New York Times lists a case in the courts, Stone versus  F.Gretsch Manufacturing. I wonder what that is about.

November 11 Armistice signed. The war in Europe comes to an end.

January 16

(Date according to Charlotte’s Diary.)
Charlotte’s youngest brother, Leo Sommer died. He was a casualty of the flu epidemic which was at its crest.

Leo had been the sponsor at Charlotte’s son Harold’s baptism in 1913.
He was an usher at their brother Charles’s wedding in 1915.  Leo left behind a wife, Gertrude, and a daughter, Charlotte. Charlotte was yet another niece who was named after her father’s sister.
Leo’s wife later married Robert Phillips was widowed again and
married George Fuldner who died on their honeymoon.
In 1936, Leo’s daughter Charlotte married Christopher Coll, a graduate of Lehigh University. They had two children, Christopher and Cindy Reya.

Doris Lessing in her autobiography, Under My Skin, writes ” the year 29 million people died of the flu epidemic which for some reason gets left out of the histories of that time. Ten million were killed in the great war mostly in the trenches is a statistic we remember on of the 11th of November of every year, but 29 million died of the flu, sometimes called the Spanish Lady.”

It is quite true, the flu is hardly every mentioned in histories of the period. Leo Sommer too has been forgotten. There is no record today of where he contacted the flu or where he died.

In Donald Ritchie’s book James Landis published in 1980, 1919 is remembered as “the year of Wilson’s stroke, the Red Scare, and national retrenchment from social reform.” No mention of the flu epidemic which killed 29 million people. This is just one of many examples.

January 31 Rose Rosenthal, the granddaughter of Jennie and Nathan Jonas is born. She is the daughter of Isabel and Jules E. Rosenthal. Charlotte records the date in her diary. Rose’s birth so close to the death of Charlotte’s brother must have given Charlotte some solace.

February 5 Fred Gretsch, Chairman of the Sub-Committee on music for the Victory Celebration in Brooklyn, resigns because of William Randolph Hearst. See N.Y.T. article. “BROOKLYN MEN QUIT BECAUSE OF HEARST .. EXPECT OTHERS TO FOLLOW”
Fred was standing in solidarity with Nathan S. Jonas whose resignation the board had accepted. Fred was one of the first to come to the side of Jonas and resign.
Charlotte and Jennie must have been very close in this tense period

February 17
Matheson Kane Miller ( born Sommer) born. He is the sone of Charlotte’s cousin Arthur Sommer and Saletta Miller.
Born so soon after the death of Charlotte’s  brother Leo Sommer, this tiny baby must have been a great happiness for the family.
Later, Matheson’s parents would divorce and Saletta would take the children to live in the west. She changed the children’s name to Miller.

According to Carlotta Fink Shaw, wife of Matheson’s nephew,

Matheson was born with pyloric stenosis—projectile vomiting.  His father, Arthur, who was a Christian Scientist, took the baby to a Christian Scientist healer. The healer called Salletta, the mother, and told her to come to get her son.  The baby was blue.  Salletta found a pediatric surgeon at the railroad station, who was about to leave for the First World War.  The surgeon had no nurses.  Salletta held the baby during the surgery.  Matheson survived.

May 4  Movement in China, thousand of Chinese students poured into the streets of Beijing to express their outrage at the terms of the Versailles Peace Treaty (Perry, Shanghai on Strike).
June 28 Treaty of Versailles
Sometime before 1920, Charlotte and her family moved from President Street in Brooklyn to 37 Shorthill Road in Forest Hills Gardens, Queens. “Bright cheerful houses, well arranged, well trimmed lawns, hedging carefully cut…distinctly joyous,” wrote architectural critic Herbert Croly in 1914 about the Forest Hills Garden community in Queens, New York. The New York Tribune agreed, reporting that the place was a “modern Eden, a fairy tale too good to be true.” Conceived as an experiment that would apply the new science of city planning to a suburban setting, Forest Hills Gardens was created by the Russell Sage Foundation to provide housing for middle-class commuters as an alternative to cramped flats in New York City. It has long been recognized as one of the most influential planned communities in the United States. (A Modern Arcadia: Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and the Plan for Forest Hills Gardens. Susan L. Klaus, University of Massachusetts Press, 2002).

Charlotte’s sons Willy Walter (on the left) and Richard  in front of their home at 37 Shorthill Road. By this time Willy Walter mostly likely preferred to be called Bill.
This picture was given to Bill’s son, Fred Gretsch by Richard Gretsch in the late 1990’s.

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August 14 Charlotte’s husband Fred signs a letter to the United States Government supporting a passport for his brother Walter to go abroad on Commercial Business.

December 1 On this date, Charlotte’s sister in law, Hertha Gretsch, took an oath of allegiance and signed her passport application in Honolulu, Hawaii. On this application Hertha lied several times. She deliberately mispelt her last name, lied about her father’s birthplace, the year of her birth and her relationship to Cecile Arneaux Reynolds.

Did Charlotte or her husband have any idea what Hertha was up to? Did they know she was traveling to the Far East? Did they know about Cecile Reynolds.

Matheson K. Sommer (later changed to Miller) was born in 1919, the first child of Salletta and Arthur Sommer.  Matheson was born with pyloric stenosis–projectile vomiting.  Arthur took the baby to a Christian Scientist healer.  The healer called Salletta: Come get your son.  The baby was blue.  Salletta found a pediatric surgeon at the railroad station, who was about to leave for the war (WWI).  The surgeon had no nurses.  Salletta held the baby during surgery.  Matheson survived.
(Thanks to Carlotte F.Shaw for this family story.)

Elsa Gretsch Clauss and her husband Joe and their two sons Ted and Jack live at 1707 Avenue N in Brooklyn. They lived here still in 1930.

January 8 U.S. Census reports that Leo’s widow, Gertrude Rohe Sommer,  is living with her mother, Gertrude Rohe at 17 West 87th Street.
Also at the address is Charlotte Sommer, 3 years and ten months old and Charles Rohe, a 26 year old brother of Gertrude Rohe Sommer. The family is in the meat packing business and two servants live with them.

January 25 Walter Gretsch, Charlotte’s husband’s brother marries Gertrude Beardall Gourlay. She is the widow of Amos Gourlay. According to her passport application, she has known Walter for ten years.

January 31 The first birthday of Rose Rosenthal. Also the day the census taker came to their household.
Discovering this lend to a sleepness night of me 85 years later and hence the following essay:

Wednesday, June 8 2005 Ann Arbor, Michigan, 9:44 A.M.
Last night I simply couldn’t fall asleep, although I was tired and and heady on one beer when the lights were turned off.

I was also heady on a discovery–Rose Rosenthal’s one year old birthday Jan.31 fell on the same day as the census taker arrival in 1920. One year old the taker recorded and surely it brought a smile to her family’s household –  especially since as everyone knew the family was with out one member, Jay Seth who had died at age 13 just four years earlier.

It was a moment full of meaning for the family recording this new child in the census- a moment they would talk about for weeks –  and they all talked about it without mentioning Jay Seth, although they all thought about him.

That is the moment that kept me awake last night –  that moment I discovered hidden inside my grandmother’s Charlotte diary, hidden inside the New York Census from 1920, inside the New York Times historical newspapers and inside the book of Rose’s grandfather, Nathan S. Jonas. All of these places gave me facts with led up to this moment, Rosa’s birthday, the census, Jay Seth’s death and the memories evoked in a single instant.

Charlotte surely heard the story being a close friend of the family….she would have heard how the census taker came to the door…how they talked about the child’s birthday and how unusual it was…how lucky for the child….and Charlotte would have thought of her brother Leo who had died of influenza just days before Rose was born…..Leo, her lovely younger brother, gone now, not recorded in the census.

That moment , that insight into Charlotte’s thoughts kept me awake too…a moment I noticed just before we switched the lights off, no wonder I couldn’t sleep I was so deeply connected to the past.

Earlier in the day I had been looking up the census records to see what year Rose was born. I had the date, January 31 from Charlotte’s diary but the year was missing. I found her as a one year old in the 1920 census recording her birth in 1919. later however, talking with DWC and he helped me realize that if she was 1 year old in April of 1920., she would have been born in 1918- so back I went to the census date and compart it to her birthday neither of which I could remember.

I truly thought that I had gotten it wrong and reported her birth as 1919 when it should have been 1918.

Imagine my surprise when I found the census taken on her birthday, making her exactly one year old in 1920.

DWC’s concern heavy with smart thinking had sent me back to the record to catch something I had missed but it wasn’t what we both thought I had missed. It was something else entirely.

What I had missed was the high significance of the day in terms of births, death, record taking and memory…..for the next census in 1930, Charlotte would be the absent one.

February 1 Walter and Gertrude sail for Europe on the Rotterdam. Walter is on a business trip for the Fred Gretsch Manufacturing Company. Following the tradition of the times, he is bringing his wife along on their wedding trip. Charlotte probably had accompanied her husband on a similar trip in 1904.

February John P. Welch returns from serving during the war in Europe and in Rheinsfel , Germany with the army of occupation. His marriage in 1917 to Helene Gretsch, Fred’s sister is revealed.

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This picture of Bill, Fred and Richard Gretsch was probably taken ca. 1920. Note the winter clothing the boys are wearing.
Also note that the oldest boy Fred is in the middle of the picture. Fred would have been 15 years old in 1920.

In 2009, this framed picture belongs to Katherine Gretsch Cuddeback, daughter of Bill Gretsch, who is on the left side of the image. Thanks Katie for taking such good care of it for so long.

July 20 Charlotte gives her son Richard a bible inscribed ” To Richard from Mother “. When Richard is 100 years old, he still keeps the bible by his bedside.

United States Census records in N.Y. Vol. 314 Ed. 443 SHEET 3 LINE 91, Shorthill Road, Forest Hills: FRED GRETSCH 39, CHARLOTTE GRETSCH 39, FRED 14, WILLIAM 13, BRIDGET 12, WILLIAM SOMMER 75, JOHN SOMMER 29, MARION DUFFY 16, MAID.

It was a crowded household on Shorthill Road. Charlotte’s father and her younger brother are living with the Gretsch family. Note that Richard, was mistakenly recorded as “Bridget”.
Also please note that again as in Charlotte’s childhood, there is an Irish maid living in the household.

Also listed in this census was Charlotte’s friend Margaret Simons and her family. Margaret and her husband had two sons George (12) and Walter (7). They lived at 56 Beech Knoll Road which was just a short walk from Charlotte’s house. Charlotte’s son Bill and George went to school together in 1922.

October 18 “Mary” arrives in New York City and opened at the Kickabocker Theater. A catchy musical comedy of George M. Cohan. Louis Hersch, score, “the Love Nest”. Otto Harback and Frank Mendal, lyrics.

The song became the theme of the Geroge Burns and Gracie Allen show in the 1950’s

November Harding and Coolidge won the vote for the White House. This was the first time in history that women voted all across America.
The Republican victory sounded a note of opposition to the League of Nations. It was the opinion of some newspapers that women did not want America to get involved in world politics.

I wonder what Charlotte thought.

Thanksgiving First National Association of Music Makers Convention (NAMM) held in Chicgao. Fred Gretsch certainly was there and not home for dinner.

December 25
The New York Times reports that Fred Gretsch Jr. was selected to take part in the Sixth Annual National Boys Indoors Tennis Championship Match in New York City on Monday, December 27 at the Seventh Regiment armory.

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This picture of Arthur Sommer (left) his sister Augusta Anger and her husband was given to me by Carlotta Shaw.

Arthur and Augusta were first cousins of Charlotte Sommer Gretsch. they were small children in the 1895/06 photo above. Click on the photo to see an enlargement.

Women granted the right to vote. What did Charlotte think of this?

January 1 Music Trades Magazine, page 43
Musical Merchandise House Plans Advertising Drive Which Should Prove Beneficial to All Trade

Looking foreword to 1921 to be one of the biggest in the history of the house, The Fred Gretsch Manufacturing Co., 60 Broadway, Brooklyn, N.Y., one of the largest manufacturers in the United States of string and band instruments, have closed plans for an extensive advertising campaign in all the leading music trade and professional trade journals.

In connection with the successful drive carried on by THE MUSIC TRADES,  in conjunction with the National Musical Merchandise Association of America, urging piano and talking merchandise dealers  throughout the country to add a musical merchandise department to their business, the house of Gretsch in all its advertising copy is concentrating on the music house idea, telling why it is essential for the music dealer to make good connections for the year 1921.

Many music dealers within the past year and a half have already added a musical merchandise department to their business. Others are contemplating such a move next spring. Shipping conditions and the labor situation in the plant have been bettered.

The following is a New Year’s message which is being sent out by the house of Gertsch to music dealers throughout the country. It is also one of the first advertisements which will appear in leading music trade journals:

etc. etc.

Gretsch is planning for a big year ahead.

What is going on with Fred and Walter? The company will soon split apart.

January 15 Music Trades Magazine, page 41,
“Gretsch receives Foreign Goods. Entire Output of Paulius, Saxony, to be Devoted to Gretsch Interests.
The Fred. Gretsch Mfg. Co., manufacturers of all kinds of musical instruments and accessories, 60 Broadway, Brooklyn, New York recently received a shipment of los Tosca, Italian accordions and Eagle brand harmonicas, violins, bows and strings.
Albin L. Paulius, Jr., one of the pioneers in fiddle making at Saxony, and manufacturer to crowned heads, is now devoting his entire plant and time in producing violins for the house of Gretsch. The firm has plans well under way to care for big business during 1921.”

In the late summer of 2008, Richard Gretsch, the youngest son of Charlotte and Fred Gretsch looked at this time line with his daughter, Judy Gretsch Getchell.

In 2008, Richard was one hundred years old. After reading the lines quoted above, he commented, “Probably about the time I started working on
Saturdays! ”

January 12, Wednesday,
Pinehurst Outlook, Pinehurst, NorthCarolina reports

Women’s Clock-Golf Tourney
To Mrs. J.D. Armstrong
First prize in the weekly women’s putting contest held on the Clock Greens in front of the Country Club on Saturday, last went to Mrs. John D. Armstrong, who led a good size field with a round of 23 for 12 holes.Mrs. A.S.Higgens and Mrs. Eberhard Faber tied at 24 for the the next best score.

The scores:
Mrs. J.D. Armstrong        23
Mrs. A.S.HIggens             24
Mrs. EBerhard Faber     24
Mrs. Herman Ellis          25
Mrs.H.H. Rackham         25
Mrs. F. Gretsch                29
Mrs. J.H. Wright              29
Mrs. C. S. Waterhouse    29
Mrs.N.S. Jonas                 30
Miss L.Budell                  30
Mrs. R. Blackington       33
Mrs. R.C. Blanche           no card

( NB. Was Mrs. H.H. Rackham the wife of Horace Rackham of University of Michigan fame?)

April 23 The musical comedy “Mary” closes at the Knickerbockers Theater.

May NAMM, music convention held at Drake Hotel.
President Fred Gretsch and William Brenner of the Fred. Gretsch Mfg. Co. are representing the company.

It is interesting to note that at this time when William Brenner was working for the Fred Gretsch Mfg. Co., he was also involved with Walter Gretsch in the New York Band and Instrument Company. On April 30, they along with others had raised the value of the company from $100.00. to $150,000.

August 13
New York Times reports ” World’s Golf Title to be Determined Match Between Hutchison and Barnes Will Crown Winner Unofficial Champion … Taking advantage of the fact that for the first time in the history of golf the two premier links honors in the world-the British open and the national open championship are in the possession of Americans, the Sound View Country club of Great Neck L.I. has arranged a match which will unofficially at least determine the world’s title. The idea of a match of this nature was first conceived by N.S. Jonas and Fred Gretsch, Soundview members after Hutchinson won the British open title.”

September 5
First unofficial golf championship of the world planned by Fred Gretsch and Nathan Jonas at Soundview Club, Great Neck, Long Island.

Golf seems to be a very big part of Charlotte’s husband’s life. Apparently, Charlotte was also playing golf as her diary entry from May 30, 1925 points out. (See below.)

September 27 Seth Rosenthal is born to Isabel and Jules. Seth is the grandson of Jennie and Nathan Jonas. Charlotte records his birth in her diary.

Charlotte must have been delighted for her friend Jennie.

October 25 Fred sails on Aquitania for a business trip to Europe.

December 12 Fred returns from a six week tour of musical merchandise centers of Europe.

January 22,
Tuesday Charlotte’s son Bill posses with his 8th grade class for a photo. The teacher is B. H. Saunders.
The student’s names are written on the back of the picture:
Clay Cole, John Millen, Elwood Auer, Edward Mascrope, Edith Danse, Winnifred Allwart, Grace Clinchy, Gladys Hadrafiars, Doris Clifford, Paul Jerome, Helen Merman, Anna Dorothy Backus, Mildred Licht, Marian Bottenger, Elizabeth McGavern, Lydia Klint, Olivia Edward, Charles Srcum, Ellen Yepsen, Bill Gretch (sic), Virginia Chesney, George Simons, Charles Reice, Geraldine Claypoll, Jean Barolear, Abba Grisse.

NB. Bill is going to school with George Simmons. He is the son of Charlotte’s good friend Margaret.

June William Rockefeller died of pneumonia.

July 1,
The Music Trade Review reports that M.G. Lathrop is in town. He is the sales manager for Couturier, a band instrument company that Gretsch will distribute. Did Charlotte go out to dinner with this businessman and her husband? Was she expected to entertain him in her home?

This was a pretty big account for the Gretsch company to have.

July 22 Charlotte’s first cousin Arthur and his wife Saletta Pressing Miller are divorced in Reno, Nevada.
This must have been a terrible heartache for the family. Surely, it was something that was very much on Charlotte’s mind. In the 1895 family portrait, Charlotte has her arm on the shoulder of her young cousin Arthur.

July 26 Louis and Marion Gretsch sail for Europe. They were just married and are honeymooning there. See Hertha’s time line for more information.

Together with Walter and Gertrude, they meet up with Hertha in Paris and insisted that she return home.
What did Charlotte know of the situation with Hertha?
There is a story that Hertha was traveling with opium.
Opium was very much the talk of travelers in those days. The newspapers reported lots of stories about opium smugglers.

Fall Fred begins college at Cornell.
The son-in-law of Jennie and Nathan Jonas, Jules Rosenthal, went to Cornell. Perhaps, this is how Fred and Charlotte first started thinking of their own son going there.

October 5 Fred Gretsch Sr. applies for new birth certificate for Fred Jr. and William. Were they planning a trip abroad and needed passports.
November 10 Hertha Gretsch age 33, returns home on the ship Aquitania. She is traveling with Walter and Gertrude.
Hertha has been traveling for more than 3 years on her own. For some of this time, we know she traveld with Cecile Arneaux Reynolds.

At this time the trouble with Fred and Walter is probably coming to a head. Two years ago, Walter and Fred were working together. However, it is possibly in this time frame that the split between the brothers occurred.

What was Charlotte’s relationship with her sister-in-law Hertha?

December William Rockefeller Jr. died of pneumonia. He was born in 1870. Note that his father died a few months earlier. Both men had colds that turned into pneumonia. Charlotte who grew up so near the Rockefeller family home would have been well aware of these deaths and the dangers associated with even a small cold.

John Sommer courted Frances Kliegl at Elka Park and at East 92nd Street but the hub of their courting was (according to their daughter Barbara Sommer Shea) 37 Shorthill Road. This was Charlotte’s home and Frances always thought that her sister-in-law Charlotte was a saint.

When Matheson ( Miller nee Sommer )was about four years old, he developed St. Vitus’Dance.  He shook all the time, and screamed when his mother came near him.  The doctor said the child needed some kind of shock.  Matheson was sent to his father, where Matheson improved.  Arthur Sommer took Matheson back in 1923, and they lived in the apartment of one of Arthur’s brothers at 440 Riverside Drive.  Matheson had a close relationship with his father. (Carlotta Fink Shaw)

Fresh Meadows Country Club in Flushing was opened.
Benjamin C. Ribman, a Brooklyn sportsman was the first president.
Nathan Jonas and Fred Gretsch  were also influential in the founding of this Club.

Fred no doubt spent lots of time here playing golf with his friend Nathan.
In 1946, it was made into the Fresh Meadows Housing Project. New homes were built for the returning troops.

Here is more information from the Queens Public Library:

About 1923, a Brooklyn sportsman, Benjamin C. Ribman, opened the
Fresh Meadows Country Club. The 141-acre country club hosted US
Golf Opens and operated until 1946 when it was sold to The New York
Life Insurance Company. The company created the Fresh Meadows
Housing Development, a post World War II project and model
community to for returning WWII soldiers and their families.
The development consisted of row houses and high-rise buildings,
a shopping center, a theater, a public library and schools. Opened
in 1949, the Fresh Meadows Housing Development was at the
time hailed by community planner Lewis Mumford as “perhaps
the most positive and exhilarating example of large-scale community
planning in the country”.

February 19 Charlotte with her husband Fred returns from Havana, Cuba on board the Calamares.
Also on board were Charlotte’s good friend Jennie Jonas and her husband Nathan. At the time the Jonas’ were living in Forest Hills.

Again, the older and younger couple vacationed together. They were together at the same time of year in 1917 at Asheville, North Carolina.

July 30

Eleanor Duse on the cover of Time Magazine. The first woman to appear on a the magazine’s cover. She was an actress and well know to Helene Gretsch for sure.
August 1 Walter and Gertrude Gretsch’s daughter, Gertrude is born. She is born on the birthday of Nathan S. Jonas, a very good friend of the Gretsch’s. (see Through the Years by Nathan S. Jonas p. 295)
Although, Charlotte and Fred had virtually no contact with Walter and Gertrude, Charlotte must have been delighted to have another niece.

August 5 Four days after Gertrude’s birth, Clara Marieta Sommer the  daughter of Charlotte’s brother Louie and his wife Clara, died at Camp in Fairfield, Connecticut. Clara was 16 years old. The cause of her death was kidney trouble. Clara had been born two weeks before Charlotte’s son, William.

Charlotte’s sons also went to summer camp in Connecticut along with their cousin, Teddy Clauss.

Click on this picture to see an enlargement. It is logical that as cousins, Clara Sommer and Charlotte’s children were close. This was the third young girl cousin of Charlotte’s boys to die. Charlotte (1912), Emilie (1915) and now Clara. They were all buried together in the Lutheran Cemetery.

Click to enlarge image

It can be certain that Charlotte and her boys visited this cemetery plot often.  Charlotte’s mother and also her infant son Harold were also buried there. Charlotte and her husband would eventually be buried in the same plot. Today, there is a large monument in this plot of a woman in mourning. The photo to the left was taken in 2003 by Charlotte’s grandson Fred William Gretsch. It was Fred’s father William who was so close in age to Clara.

Dec 26 Jack Sommer wrote to Frances Kliegl,
“Mr. John A. Sommer having duly received Miss Frances Kliegl’s invitation to be one of those present at her home on the 29th day of the present calendar month in the evening hastens to accept with thanks in writing having previously done so by word of mouth at one Elizabeth’s abode this Friday evening just past, at which time said Frances and Elizabeth did make very happy said John by very thoughtfully and painstakingly arranging many packages of gifts with suitable paragraphs of prose and poetry appended to all and each individually said gifts now being the greater part of said John’s married sister’s Christmas Tree.
December Twenty-Sixth , Forest Hills,

March  “The firm of Gretsch and Brenner was incorporated to do business in band and orchestra instruments this week in New York, according to papers filed with the Secretary of State’s Office. Capitalization of the new firm was given as $200.00.

The members of this new wholesale organization are Walter Gretsch and William Brenner both well known in the jobbing business and in wide circles of friends in the trade. The headquarters of Gretsch and Brenner will be at 12 Astor Place, New York.

Both Mr. Gretsch and Mr. Brenner sailed for Europe on Saturday where they will visit the manufacturers and secure business for the new firm. They will be gone about six weeks.”
Music Trades, March 15, 1924

May 24 Charlotte’s middle son, Bill won a contest which took him to Washington D.C. to meet President Calvin Coolidge and to Monticello. Bill was made honorary President of the borough of Richmond (Forest Hills Bulletin).

June 3 Charlotte signs her husband’s passport application. She certifies that she has know him for 22 years. The application affirms that Charlotte will be traveling to Europe with her husband.

Her picture also appears on this passport application.

June 17 Charlotte writes her will.
Witnesses are Sadie J. Wylie and Edward B. Wylie of 41 Shorthill Road. Forest Hills, New York.
The Wylies lived right next door to Charlotte and Fred.
The house they lived in was the same house where Charlotte and her family lived while their house at number 37 was being built.
In 1930, according to the US Census, the Evans lived in that house.
Manufacturers Trust Company is made executor and trustee of this will.

June 18, Charlotte, Fred, and Fred Jr. sail for Europe for three months.

Note that soon after the formation of “Gretsch and Brenner”, Fred Gretsch Sr. takes his oldest son to Europe. The young Fred was being taught the business. The following year, Bill Gretsch went to Europe with his parents and the following year, Richard Gretsch accompanied his parent.

Richard’s diary from this trip survives today (2009). Most likely, the older boys also kept diaries of their trip. They were probably encouraged to do so by their parents. The diaries of Fred and Bill have not yet been found.

Jack Sommer writes in a letter to Frances Kliegl ” Mr and Mrs. Fred Gretsch and Fred Jr. sail Wednesday on La France for an indefinite period. Fred, Jr ought to get a real kick out of this trip. He just returned from Cornell. His dad may leave him over there to learn the language (in Paris). Personally, I think he is too young to be left alone in that gay city.”

The following year, Charlotte’s second son goes to Europe with his parents. The year after that Richard goes to Europe with his parents.

It looks like Charlotte and her husband have made a decision to take each of their boys individually to Europe for the summer.

Charlotte didn’t like sea voyages. Richard told me that he remembered watching his mother packing  the trunks for a European trip in the basement of their house on Shorthill Road. He remembers her saying to him that she begins to feel sea sick as she begins to pack the trunks. It was a joke of course but it does tell us something about how Charlotte felt about traveling by sea.

My grandmother has so completely vanished from the family story, that this memory is one of the few insights I have as to how Charlotte herself felt about anything.

Despite her seasickness, Charlotte packed the trunks three years in a row to take her boys to Europe.

Summer: Bill and Dick at Camp Harlem, Lakeville, Connecticut. Remember their cousin Clara had died at camp in Connecticut the previous year. Ted Clauss was also at this camp with his cousins Bill and Dick.

Lakeville is the same town  Landowska the very famous harpsicordist retired to in the 1940’s.


Gretsch-Brenner Music Company was begun. The split between Walter and Fred was acute.
August 25

Edith Cummings a woman golfer appears on the cover of Time Magazine.

The women’s golf tournament is beginning in Rhode Island.

September 1 Charlotte, her son Fred and her husband Fred return home on the Minnetonka which sailed from London on August 23.

The following year, Charlotte would travel to Europe with her son William and the next year with her son, Richard.

September 11 Thursday, John Sommer writes to Frances Kliegl in Elka Park ” My sister was very happy to see us and we were glad to see her. She enjoyed Europe very much but was happy to be home again.”

This rare second hand quote from Charlotte about how she enjoyed her summer in Europe was written in a letter by her younger brother to his soon to be bride. Note the family connection to Elka Park is through Charlotte’s younger brother, John Sommer

December 13
Bill’s 18th birthday.

A special edition of the “Forest Hills Bulletin” was mailed to all the residents of Forest Hills as a Christmas Gift from the Cord Meyer Development Company. It was written by Lucy Allen Smart.

The following information about the Church of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs was given in this issue. Charlotte must have paid very close attention to the development of a Catholic church in her community. The final church was not completed until the late 1930’s. So Charlotte never saw its completion but her grandchildren, Bill’s four children whom Charlotte also never saw, grew up with this church and knew it well.

“The Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs held first services in an unoccupied house on Fife Street, though the courtesy of the Cord Meyer Development Company, in November, 1912, with an attendance of 100. The present membership is about 1,500. In December, 1915, the church moved from Fife Street to the present chapel on Ascan Avenue. The Rev. Thomas A. Nummey was pastor of the church from 1912 to 1917 when the Rev. Joseph R. McLaughlin was placed in charge.

The present edifice (December, 1924) is entirely inadequate for the congregation and the erection of a complete parish plant is contemplated for the near future. Plans are being prepared by McGuinness & Walsh, celebrated Boston architects, and will include, the church with a seating capacity of 1,000, a school which will accommodate 1500 pupils, with an auditorium which will seat 1,000, a rectory and convent. The style of architecture will be Tudor-Gothic and the construction will be of stone. It is planned to start the first unit of the auditorium as soon as possible. The total estimated value for the completed church property will be $1,000,000.00.”

December 18 “Cousin Susie Died” (from Charlotte’s diary)


The New York Census of 1925 shows the Gretsch family living at 37 Shorthill Road. William Baxter, age 28 is living with them. He is listed as a teacher. I wonder if he was tutoring Bill who had lost so much school time because of his many operations. Also listed is a maid, Anna Goldrick age 20.
Please Note! All of the * entries listed below were found in Charlotte’s diary. To view completely Charlotte’s diary please go to the Library site on this website.

This diary was given to Charlotte by Jennie Jonas her good friend and wife of Nathan Jonas.
I believe the diary was given to Charlotte in the spring of 1925 because at this time Charlotte began writing in the diary.
Also, the opening of the Lakeville Golf Course was on April 25, 1925. Both Charlotte and Jennie’s husbands were very involved with the establishment of this course. It is today Fresh Meadows Country Club.

Please note that it was in this busy year that Fred Gretsch, Charlotte’s husband was named to the Finance Committee of the Lincoln Savings Bank. He had become a member of the Board in 1917. He was at this time stepping up his involvement with the bank

April 24 Friday, Luncheon at Maillard with Gertrude Morries in Afternoon, Tea at Pem Hotel*
April 29, Wednesday, Luncheon at Anna Gemerich*
April 30, thursday Kaffee Klatsch at C. Schwegler, Opera in the evening, Frances-John-Mr.& Mrs. L. Mills*
May 2, Saturday Banjo and String Ensemble, Mr. Baxter- Mr.&Mrs. Fort*
May 3, Sunday, Equity Players Mrs, Davidson, Mr. Baxter- Mr.& Mrs.Nicols, Mr.&Mrs. Penfrield, Mr.&Mrs. Fort.*
May 4, Monday, The Opening of the Northside Bank Mr. & Mrs. Nathan Jonas*
(NB May 4 and 5 pages are missing and written in at the bottom of May 2)
May 5, Tuesday, Mrs. L. Eifert Good Will*
May 11 Spring Luncheon of the Good Will Circle*
May 14 Folly Begierre at 11 a.m. of the Women’s Federation Church*

The following letter was found in a collection of letters belonging originally to Frances Kliegl Sommer:

” My dear Frances,
If our hearts could be spread open as a book you would find revealed there a hearty welcome to our family.
Our most sincere congratulations are yours and Jack, and our earnest prayers that every happiness may come to you both in your future life.
With much love, ever yours, Charlotte and family. Sunday the sixteenth Nineteen hundred and twenty-five”

This letter was probably written after Frances Kliegl’s engagement to Charlotte’s brother Jack was announced. Jack gave Frances a ring right before she sailed for Europe.
The date (16th) and the day (Sunday) however don’t coincide with the dates and days in May, 1925. Perhaps, Charlotte misdated the letter. See reference to this letter below on June 16th. Frances had received this letter and was very happy with it.

This letter was given to me, Charlotte’s granddaughter by Barbara Sommer Shea, Frances and Jack’s oldest daughter in April of 2005.

May 30, Saturday Golf in the morning, Entertainment Dance and Dinner at night at the Lakeville Country and Golf Club* This was the golf club in Fresh Meadows which was founded by Nathan Jonas. Fred Gretsch was the first vice president of the club. It is today the Fresh Meadows Country Club.

end of May Jack Sommer wrote to his fiancé Frances Kliegl “My sister and her hubby were surprised and pleased to hear the good news (the engagement). My nephews Bill and Dick and their gang are beneath my windows as I write serenading me with songs to the accompaniment of a ukulele. They just sang my “Bonnie lies over the water” the singing has ceased and my watch reads 11 p.m. so I will say good-night precious…..

June 8-12  Music Trade Show in Chicago at the Drake Hotel
Gretsch and Brenner were there.
Fred. Gretsch Mfg. Co. was there too.

June 16 In a letter dated on this day, Jack Sommer wrote to his fiancée Frances Kliegl who was touring Europe
“As soon as your letter of May 29th was opened and read by your devoted Jack, he phoned his sister and told her how happy her letter made his darling Frances. Sounds like a puzzle doesn’t it honey? Anyway Charlotte was happy, Frances was happy which made Jack happy too. Mr. and Mrs. Fred Gretsch and William Gretsch left for Europe today on the Berengaria. They may see you dear some where in Germany during July.”

June 17 Mr. and Mrs. Fred Gretsch sail for Plymouth, Cherbourg and South Hampton aboard the Cunard Liner, “Berengaria”.  Their son Bill accompanied them.

The Berengaria was originally built for Hamburg-American Line in 1913 and named Imperator. It served the Hamburg-New York route. It was the largest ship afloat 1913-14. It was given as reparations to US Government, in 1919 and ceded to Britain in 1920 and resumed sailing but under British flag. Later it was sold to Cunard Line in 1921 and renamed Berengaria. The ship was named after the wife of Richard the Lionhearted.

“Miss Gertrude Ederle who swam from the Battery to Sandy Hook (a twenty one mile race which she won in record time) on Monday is also a passenger. She is going to try to swim the English Channel” (NYT July 11, 1925) Charlotte’s son Bill who accompanied his parents on this trip must have been very interested in being on a ship with such a great swimmer. Bill and Gertrude were the same age and he was a swimmer himself.

The Berengaria was equipped with a swimming pool measuring 100ft x 33ft. and was known as the Pompeian Bath. It was housed in a two deck high compartment and was larger than the pool at the RAC club in London. No doubt Charlotte’s son and Gertrude Ederle both enjoyed the pool on board.

July 8 Angela Ahern Saybolt died at home in Forest Hills. She was 37 years old.
Angela was the wife of the family doctor, William F. Saybolt. She had a large funeral at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Catholic Church.
Perhaps, she was a friend of Charlotte’s. They were both Catholic women living in Forest Hills with three children. Their paths could have easily crossed. Bill listed Dr. Saybolt on his college enrollment card.
Less than three years later, Charlotte would also have her funeral there.

September 3 Charlotte returns from Europe sailing from  Cherborg.

Traveling with her are her husband Fred and son William.

Also traveling on the same ship are Samuel and Rose Rosenthal of Baltimore, Maryland. Are they perhaps the parents of Nathan and Jenny Jonas’s son in law?

1925-1926 That winter, 1925-1926, Charlotte’s youngest son Richard is finishing high school. Bill is catching up on the time that he lost in school when he was having operations on his leg, he too will graduate in June.  Dick was finishing high school.
The split between Fred and Walter is totally complete now. Walter’s new business is well under way.

October 25 Francis Kliegl and John Sommer were married. The celebration was held at the Majestic Hotel.

Charlotte’s younger brother was marrying into a very illustrious family.
Francis’s uncle had invented Klieg lights. Her father was now running the company.
Note that only a few days after Charlotte’s birth in 1880, experiments with night lighting were going on not far from her home on Broadway. See the time line above.

Charlotte and her family must have been at the wedding.

Note that Charlotte had attended the Opera with her young brother John and his girlfriend on April 30th.

Christmas Charlotte’s youngest son Dick, seventeen years old,  found a watch and with the help of his Uncle returned the watch to its owner. The watch owner in Mr Kronsky in return sent young Dick a very nice letter.
Please note: according to a 1925 New York Census William Baxter a 28 year old teacher is living with the family as is Anna Goldrick, a 20 year old maid.

Edward and Sadie Wylie are  living at 41 Shorthill Road and signed Charlotte’s will on June 17, 1924.

Louis and Marion Gretsch’s daughter, Marion is born.

June 14 Fred graduated from Cornell. His dad really didn’t want him to go to college; Fred Sr. didn’t see the point. Did Charlotte go to the graduation?

June 18 Charlotte and Fred Sr. sailed for Europe with their youngest son, Richard. It was Rosa Gretsch Kling’s birthday.

Young Richard kept a diary on this trip. Richard wrote that on shipboard, the last night at dinner Charlotte asked her husband if he doesn’t worry about leaving the key to the wine cellar at home (Shorthill Road) where the boys (Fred and William) might get it. She was not afraid that they would touch it but their friends might. Dick recorded his father’s response in his diary … “good old dad said ‘the ship might sink too and then who would look after them.’ ”

July 10 Dick wrote a letter to his parents and pretended that it is from Bill because Bill hasn’t written and Dick perceived that his parents were worried. Dick makes note of this in his diary , which he wrote, on stationery from Hotel Regina, at Baden-Baden. Actually they don’t visit this hotel until two days after the event he recorded on the hotel stationary. He was post dating (writing the dates down long after they happened) in his diary. In his diary he noted, “I wrote a letter to Mother and signed it Bill, she believes it’s from him”. Charlotte knew I’m sure that the letter wasn’t from Bill. Perhaps she thought the effort sweet and didn’t bring attention to his deception.

July 12 Staying at Hotel Regina at Baden -Baden. Did Charlotte think about her grandmother Regina and make some connections.

Living in Baden Baden at this time was  a second cousin of Richard’s father, Amy von Gerichten. She died there in 1935. Amy was born in California and was the daughter of Carl Peter von Gerichten and Florentine Timm

Another close relative, Katie Gretsch von Hellerman was also living in Germany. She was the sister of Fred’s father. She was living in Dresdan. Charlotte had her name and address in her address book, 1 Reissigenstrasse, Dresdan.

July 17  The Music Trade Review prints a picture of Fred Jr. and a long article.

“Fred Gretsch jr. oldest son of Fred Gretsch, head of the Fred Gretsch Mgf. Co. manufacturer, importer and wholesaler of musical merchandise, 60 Broadway, Brooklyn, N.Y., graduated last month from Cornell University, and has entered the firm to learn the business. Young Mr. Gretsch, who is the third Fred Gretsch in the history of the 43 year old concern, achieved scholastic distinction at Cornell and promises to make good in business rapidly. While at the university, he was manager of the varsity hockey team and otherwise prominent in undergraduate activities.

At the present time, Mr. Gretsch’s father is in Europe visiting the foreign branches of the company and he is working under the guidance of Phil Nash, sale manager and Emerson Strong, advertising manager. He is already quiet well grounded in the fundamentals of the business for he has spent several Summer vacations working in the factory and one year he visited the European musical merchandise centers with his father.”

Summer Bill graduated from high school. He had gone to a different high school than his brothers. He went to one where he could take a bus because he couldn’t walk for long distances due to his polio.

July 19- August 2
Charlotte is in Bad Elster with her son and husband. They are doing business in Markneukirchen which is nearby.

I wonder what my grandmother did for these two weeks in this spa. She most likely spent some time with two women who are noted in her address book and perhaps, did some shopping at the store which she also entered in her book.

In Charlotte address book, there are three entries for Markneukirchen: Mrs. E. Krunzel (sp?) 8 actenfabrik, Marknewkirken, Germany. Also, Frau Alfred Kuehne, Markneukirken, Germany, also, Knorr & Strobel, (Inh. Ernst Alb. Knorr, jr., Ernst Wilh. Strobel), Musikinstrumentenhdlg., Schützenstr. 60. This was a dealer of musical instruments.
Thanks to Dr. Christian Hoyer of the Framus Museum and Framus Archive for help with the names of this business.

Click to enlarge image

This picture from the Kuenzel Factory was sent to me in 2010 by Dr.Christian Hoyer of the Framus Museum and Framus Archiv in Markneukirchen. (

This picture is from approximately the same time frame as my grandmother’s visit, 1926.

Note the wonderful dress of the workers.

Note that Charlotte had the name of Mrs. Kuenzel in her personal address book. Most likely, Charlotte and Mrs. Kuenzel whose husband were both in the Musical Instrument business spent time together when Charlotte traveled to Markneukirchen.

Click to enlarge image

Click to enlarge image

These postcards sent to me through the courtesy of Dr. Christian Hoyer, depict Markneukirchen in the early 1900 when Fred and Walter first went there to do business. When Charlotte visited 20 years later, it surely had retained many of its earlier charms.

I can almost see Frau Kuenzel, Frau Kuehne and Frau Gretsch walking together in the lovely countryside which in the colored postcard surrounds Markneukirchen.
August 4-5

Charlotte stayed this night in Eisenach which is very near Erfurt. This is the town that Barbara Duden wrote about in her book, “The Woman Beneath the Skin”. In this book Duden studied the lives of the women in this town as viewed through the notes of the town doctor circa 1720.  Incredible to know that my grandmother visited this town.

Eisenach was the home of the maker of Kruspe French Horns which Gretsch distributed in America at this time.

Thanks to the diary kept by her youngest son Richard on this trip for saving this information for me.

August 6
Gertrude Ederle becomes the first woman to swim the English Channel. She broke the previous record and held the woman’s record for 35 years.
Bill would have met her on ship board last summer when she unsuccessfully made her first attempt to swim the channel.

While his parents were away, Charlotte’s son Bill went to Elka Park with Uncle John and spent some time at Camp Harlem. Fred was reported to being at the office and playing golf and his brothers teased him about gaining weight.

August 27
Parade in NYC for Gertrude Ederle, first woman to swim the English Channel. The family must have talked about this. Bill was such a good swimmer. Maybe he too had plans to swim the English Channel.

September 2 Bill enrolled at the University of Michigan. He must have gone there without his parents or brother who were traveling home from Europe on this date. Uncle Dick told me that he had been accepted and when Bill finished high school that summer, it was quickly decided that Bill should go there too.

Dick finished four years of study here but Bill only stayed in Michigan until the spring of 1927. Charlotte’s husband visited Dick here several times. There is no memory of Charlotte ever visiting this mid-western campus.

When Bill enrolled at the University of Michigan, he filled out some forms. He was asked: Names and local addresses of two adult acquaintances at your home residence. Bill wrote:

Doctor Sayboldt, Forest Hills, New York. From the 1920 census, Dr. Saybolt is living with his wife Angela and three children on at 11 Greenway Terrace South. He was in private medical practice. Dr. Saybolt was 40 years old, the same age as Charlotte and Fred. The Saybolt family home was less than a mile away from Bill’s home. It was located near the Forest Hills Inn.

Mr. J. P. Welch (sic), Greenway North, Forest Hills

J.P. Welsh was the husband of Helene Gretsch Welsh. He obviously was a person who made an impression on young Bill.

Asked to check a course of study, he chose a combined course of Literature and Medicine.
It is interesting that Bill who had so many operations as a child would choose a course in Medicine.

September 5 Charlotte, Fred and Richard returns to New York on a ship from Oslo, Norway.

This picture was found in the necrology file at the Bentley Library at the University of Michigan. When Bill applied in 1926, it was necessary to include a photo with his application. Note that the short sleeve of a woman’s dress and part of her arm are very close to Bill’s right arm. It looks as if Bill had cut his picture out of a group picture.

December 11 The Music Trade Review prints on page 45 that Walter Gretsch has sailed recently on the Steamship Homeric for Paris. He is working for Gretsch & Brenner and will return to his office by Christmas.
MTR also reports on the same page that Fred Gretsch Jr. is visiting dealers in Ohio for the Fred Gretsch Mfg. Co.

Charlotte had just returned in September for a long business trip to Europe with her husband and youngest son. It is interesting to see the division in the family between Walter and Fred and their respective businesses clearly laid out on this page in MTR.

February 7 Bill and Dick were together as students at the University of Michigan.

Bill was asked to leaves the U of M. Apparently, he had been involved in some bad prank of hoisting a toilet to the top of a University building.

In the fall, he enrolled in Lafayette University, Eaton, Pa. Teddy Clauss was nearby at Lehigh University. Bill and Ted were not only cousins but very good friends.

February Frances Sommer is pregnant and stays home from a trip to Lake Placid with Jack.
Jack writes to Frances and ends the letter with “also love to Charlotte don’t forget.”
Perhaps, Charlotte was helping Frances as she went through her second pregnancy.

June 13 New York City feted Charles A. Lindbergh with a ticker tape parade.

June 21 John and Frances Sommer lost a baby who had survived only a few days. This was the second baby they lost.

November 10 Charlotte and Fred return from Bermuda on this date.

November 26 Charlotte writes in her diary, “Sick with cold in bed”.
Less than 6 months later, Charlotte died of cancer. The nearness of her death makes this solitary entry very poignant.
For more on Charlotte’s diary see the “Library” section of this website.

January 5. The Celebration of the Jewish Hospital of Brooklyn Silver Anniversary held at Hotel Biltmore. Fred and Charlotte no doubt were there. Accorded to Nathan S. Jonas’s book, they contributed $1,000. to the Building Fund of the hospital. See Through the Years by Nathan Jonas.
Perhaps, Charlotte did not go. Perhaps, she was too ill. She died just four months later. However, I don’t think that she was sick for long before she died. At least she didn’t show it.

The NYT on January 6, reported that at that dinner it was voted that the name of the hospital be renamed for Nathan S. Jonas. However, days later, at Nathan S. Jonas’ insistence the change was never implemented.

Mid January until the end of February. Fred Sr. is on vacation in the south. This was reported in “The Music Trades”. Was Charlotte with him?

end of February Fred Gretsch Jr. returns from two weeks in the west.

Bill who is in school at Lafayette College sent a series of funny telegrams from Easton, Pennsylvania to his brother Dick in Ann Arbor. Looks like lots of partying and fun was going on.
Dick is the manager of the track team at the University of Michigan. He travels extensively with the team.

April 7 “The Music Trades” – “Gretsch and Son Sail -Fred Gretsch president of the Fred Gretsch Mfg., Co., Brooklyn, N.Y. and his son Fred, Jr., sailed this week for Europe. They plan to visit the leading musical instrument centers and make a thorough survey of trade conditions in Egland [sic], Germany , France, Czechslovakia [sic], Italy and other large countries. Both Mr. Gretsch and his son will be absent from their desks for about six weeks.”

Dick receives many telegrams about the deteriorating health of his mother and finally got a telegram to come home.

May 4 Barbara Sommer Shea told me that her mother, Frances Kleigl Sommer recalls driving Charlotte just days before she entered the hospital, to several stores to pay some bills for poorer families. Frances was pregnant at the time with Richard who would be born October 10, 1928. Frances had the previous year lost a baby due to complications at birth. Charlotte was very close to her sister-in-law Frances.

May 5 Charlotte admitted to St. Catherine’s Hospital in Brooklyn.

May 12, Saturday 6:55 am Charlotte died at St. Catherine’s Hospital of ovarian cancer.

May 15 Fred, Senior arrived back in New York city aboard the “Ille de France”. The ship sailed from La Harve on May 9th.

In Europe, Fred and Fred Jr. received a series of telegrams about Charlotte’s failing health and they made arrangements to come home. On board ship, they received one saying that Charlotte had died. Perhaps, the first telegram was sent about the time that she died but  a series of more and more serious messages were sent to soften the blow.

May 19 “The Music Trades”- Mrs. Fred Gretsch Dies in Brooklyn-,
“Mrs. Fred Gretsch, wife of the president of the Fred Gretsch Mfg.,Co.,Brooklyn, N.Y., died on Saturday (May 12) last week. Her death was unexpected, for just a month ago she was supposed to have accompanied Mr. Gretsch and their son Fred Jr. on a trip to Europe. At the last minute Mrs. Gretsch changed her mind and decided to remain here for a time, and sail later to meet her husband and eldest son in Paris. Three days after Mr. Gretsch sailed Mrs. Gretsch was taken ill and she was ordered to the hospital by her attending physician.

Mr. Gretsch was immediately cabled but he returned too late. Funeral services were held at the Church of our Lady, Forest Hills, Long Island, N. Y. on Wednesday, this week. (May 16). Many persons prominently identified with the musical instrument industry were present. Beside her husband, she is survived by three sons, Fred Jr., William and Richard.”

When Fred and Fred Jr. arrived home on the ship from Europe, a contingent of NYC police were at the dock to escort them home as a courtesy because of the grief-stricken circumstances.

Uncle Fred (her oldest son) told my sister Charlotte his niece, that the ground in the Lutheran cemetery had to be consecrated so that she a Catholic could be buried there. He said it was a really big deal but that Charlotte wanted her husband to be buried with her and she knew that he would never be buried in a Catholic cemetery.

May 24 Letter to Jack Sommer from his friend Leo.
“Dear Jack, Of course I heard the news only to-day or I would have dashed over. It is rather a task of love that most people would consider difficult to write to you at this time. I thought I might withhold my sympathy from the fear of reopening scarcely healed wounds still we are Catholics and death is not the unlovely thing to us. Nothing I can say will assuage the poignant sorrow that is yours to-day so I shall not attempt it. But try not to let go for we will join our prayers with yours and we can offer no better assistance.
The ineffable longing is of the present to be replaced soon by a priceless memory: a repository of happiness that banish grief. Soon you will be recalling a thousand and one delightful incidents that will ever magnify your sisters’ many virtues. I too thought the world would almost end with Ma’s death but now I can walk along with my memories and have a wonderful time.
My sister and I send you and Frances our love and our prayers to you for your dear sister is now in a position to help us. One prayers to her not for her. Always your devotedly, Leo”

I include this letter because it speaks not only to the closeness of John to his sister Charlotte but also  to their deep Catholic faith.

June 28 The Music Trade Review prints a picture of Fred Gretsch, Jr. and the following article:

Fred Gretsch, Jr., on Middle Western Trip
son of Head of Fred Gretsch Mfg. Co. New York. Visiting  Musical Merchandise Factories  in that Section of  Country.
Fred Gretsch, Jr., son of the head of the Fred Gretsch Mfg. Co., manufacturer and wholesaler of musical merchandise, 60 Broadway, Brooklyn, N.Y. is making a trip through the Middle West, visiting the various musical merchandise manufactures. Fred. Jr.,  graduated from Cornell University in 1926 and then entered the factory where he donned a pair of overalls and began to learn the business from the ground up beginning as a stock clerk and continuing through the various manufacturing operations.
After 18 months of intensive study of musical merchandise fundamentals, Fred had now taken the next step in his musical merchandise education in the form of a trip to the various musical merchandise centers of the Middle West, where he had found most cordial greetings and hospitality on every hand. He spent about three days in Elkhart, Ind, the band instrument city, where he made trips through practically every factory, and he expects to spend about a week in Chicago with Fred Bade, manager of the Chicago office of the Gretsch concern.
Speaking to the Review in Chicago, Mr. Gretsch said: I can only speak in the highest terms of the way the western manufacturers have received me with their open-handed cordiality and their willingness to show me through the various plants. My impressions of the manufacturers in this section of the country is that they are modern to the highest degree and leave nothing undone that makes for factory efficiency. Another thing that impressed me was the cleanliness of the factories, and the wealth of daylight which the factories seek to achieve in order to bring about pleasant working condition which seem to make for increased and efficient production.”
Mr. Gretsch will visit several other cities in the Middle West before returning to New York next week.

Charlotte’s oldest son Fred, who just returned from a trip to Europe when she died, must have left again shortly after her death for this Middle West trip.

October Jack and Frances Sommer’s son, Richard is born by Cesarean birth.
Jack and Frances lost two full term babies before Richard was born.
I wonder if Charlotte knew before she died that Frances was pregnant again.

The winter after Charlotte’s death her son, Bill, hitch hiked across the United States.

Click to enlarge image

Charlotte’s son Bill shortly after Charlotte’s death. This picture was given to Bill’s son in the late 1990’s by Bill’s brother Richard.
January 21, Charlotte’s husband Fred returned to New York from a cruise to San Juan, Puerto Rico. He traveled with these passengers from Ste. Domingo, Edwin Herbert Tallmadge, Samuel Kaplan, Anthony Howe, Ernest. Menzel, Harry Meyers and Samuel Isaacs. Most likely business colleagues from the bank.

March 23 The University of Michigan played Cornell University.
Charlotte’s son Fred attended Cornell, Dick and Bill attended Michigan.
Surely, the the three sons of Charlotte were interested in this game.

5 thoughts on “Charlotte Sommer Gretsch

  1. My great grandfather was Rev William Frederick Koepchen and he married your Charlotte and Fred. He was rector of St Lukes NYC 308 West 46th Street.

    • Thank you so much for this message, please forgive my long delay in replying. I am very interested in Charlotte Sommer Gretsch’s marriage by a Ev. Luth. pastor
      I was always told that she was extremely Catholic and brought up all of her kids devote Catholics—so why was she married by a Lutheran? Her husband, my grandfather, did not want to have anything to do with Catholics. So I wonder if she became catholic after they were married.
      They were married in her parent’s home on West 54th Street—
      Thanks again for getting in touch with me.
      i look forward to hearing from you!

  2. I’m researching family and neighborhood history and your research and website presentation is the best and clearest I’ve seen! I’m specifically researching Forest Hills Gardens. Do you have any information/sources on how long the Gretsch family lived in/kept the Shorthill Rd house in there? It’s hard for me to tell if an owner’s last name isn’t Gretsch.

    • Yes, I have information about the Short Hill home. It was built by the Gretsch family and stayed in the Gretsch Family until it was sold in the early sixties. If you would like more information I would be happy to work with you on a timeline. Heather Gretsch Roller

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